Infected blood inquiry to publish final report in seismic moment for victims

<span>Families and victims will be looking for an acknowledgment that the scandal could have been avoided.</span><span>Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Families and victims will be looking for an acknowledgment that the scandal could have been avoided.Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The infected blood public inquiry is to publish its final report on the failings that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 people in the UK and ruined many more lives.

The report will detail how more than 30,000 haemophiliacs or transfusion recipients were infected with HIV and/or hepatitis C over more than two decades, and is seen as a seismic moment for the victims and their families.

Sir Brian Langstaff, the inquiry chair, will share his findings at the Methodist hall in Westminster on Monday after amassing documents and evidence over six years. The Guardian understands that the report will call for those responsible to face prosecution.

The scandal has been described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. People treated by the NHS in the UK between the 1970s and 1990s were exposed to tainted blood through transfusions, including during complications in childbirth, or, in the case of haemophiliacs, given contaminated “factor VIII” blood products imported from the US.

Donated blood was not screened for HIV until 1986 and not tested for hepatitis C until 1991. The blood products for haemophiliacs were imported from the US, where people were paid to donate, incentivising donations from those with a high infection risk, such as drug addicts, sex workers and prison inmates.

The government will deliver a detailed response to the report later this week, after Rishi Sunak makes an official apology to the victims and their families.

John Glen, the Cabinet Office minister whose brief includes the inquiry, said that while Sunak and others would respond fully to the report, Monday was fundamentally about the affected families.

Glen told Sky News he could not yet say how much compensation would be paid or whether all of Langstaff’s recommendations would be accepted, as he had not yet seen the report.

Asked what his message would be to families, he said: “I want to say to them that we, today, will be taking the report of Brian Langstaff very seriously.

“It’s a serious piece of work. We want the focus to be on that and we recognise that what has happened should never have happened. And the government regrets very much that successive governments have not dealt with this earlier.”

Jeremy Hunt and Keir Starmer have promised justice and compensation for the victims without delay, amid apparent political consensus on the need to right wrongs swiftly after decades of failures.

The chancellor told the Sunday Times it was the “worst scandal of my lifetime” and that the victims and their families were right to feel angry with a generation of politicians, including him, for not acting to address it. He said all politicians should be “deeply ashamed it has taken so long”.

He pledged that payments, as part of a total compensation package expected to exceed £10bn, would be made as “quickly as possible”.

The inquiry has revealed evidence that there were ample warnings – including from the World Health Organization – about the dangers posed by the lack of screening and the US imported products; that HIV test results were concealed from those who had been infected; and that ministers destroyed key files at the same time as the threat of litigation was raised.

The victims and families will be looking for an acknowledgment that the scandal could have been prevented, and for blame to be apportioned to pharmaceutical companies’ corporate greed, and the UK government’s negligence and cover-up culture.

Kate Burt, the chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: “For decades, governments have dismissed the pain and suffering of those impacted by this scandal and refused to acknowledge the enormity of their failure. Far too many people have died believing that no prime minister would ever take responsibility for what happened to them.

“The infected blood inquiry’s findings today will shock every single person in the UK who cares about truth and accountability from our public servants. Transparency, integrity and compassion, so lacking in the past, must now be the values which drive our national institutions.

“Never again can such a damaged community be marginalised and ignored by the institutions set up to support them. Radical change must result from this inquiry if we are to learn the lessons of the past and protect future generations from harm.”

The inquiry’s conclusion is expected to result in Langstaff passing on the documents to the director of public prosecutions to consider whether there is a case for criminal charges. There have been high-profile calls for corporate manslaughter charges to be brought, similar to France’s approach following its scandal, though this is understood to be legally complicated.

It will also pave the way for a compensation scheme for victims and their families. Before the inquiry there had only been ex-gratia payments made through several different schemes and trusts.

Langstaff published an interim report in April 2023 affirming that “wrongs were done at individual, collective and systemic levels”. He recommended that parents and children who suffered bereavements should receive a £100,000 interim payment “to alleviate immediate suffering” and enable work to begin on the compensation scheme before the publication of the final report.