Infected Blood Inquiry report finds a “subtle, pervasive and chilling” cover-up

Infected blood campaigners at Westminster earlier this year seen here with a 'Dying For Justice' banner
Infected blood campaigners at Westminster earlier this year -Credit:PA

There was a “subtle, pervasive and chilling” cover-up of the infected blood scandal, according to the final report from the long-running inquiry.

Tens of thousands of people in the UK were infected with deadly viruses after they were given contaminated blood and blood products between the 1970s and early 1990s.

The final report of the Infected Blood Inquiry, published on Monday, found there has been “deliberate destruction” of relevant documents.

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Chairman of the inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, said in the report: “Standing back, and viewing the response of the NHS and of government overall, the answer to the question ‘was there a cover-up’ is that there has been.

“Not in the sense of a handful of people plotting in an orchestrated conspiracy to mislead, but in a way that was more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications. In this way there has been a hiding of much of the truth.”

According to the report, there was a deliberate decision to destroy Department of Health files which contained material dealing with delays in the introduction of screening blood donations for hepatitis C.

The files, which related to decision-making of the Advisory Committee on the Virological Safety of Blood (ACVSB), were marked for destruction in 1993.

“The destruction was not an accident, nor the result of flood, fire or vermin,” Sir Brian wrote.

“The immediate reason for destruction was human choice. Someone, for some reason, had chosen to have those documents destroyed.”

He said: “It is an uncomfortable conclusion that it is more likely than not that a civil servant chose to destroy the documents because they were those documents: but if that is what the evidence amounts to, it is the conclusion that must follow.”

Sir Brian added: “In short, it is on this basis more likely than not that the authorisation to destroy the (ACVSB) files was because the documents contained material dealing with delays in the UK to the introduction of screening of blood donations for hepatitis C, which was anticipated (or known) to be a live issue at the time.

“If this is right, it was a deliberate attempt to make the truth more difficult to reveal.”

He added that any conclusion “bound to be tentative” and that it is “almost certain that it was not orchestrated ‘from the top’”.

The report also explored the destruction and disappearance of medical records from hospitals, GPs and health boards.

It told of the “emotional toll” people went through trying to obtain records, making reference to a woman who described trying to get her late father’s medical records as “like a battle of wills”.

The report concluded that it is likely records went missing because of a “mixture of incompetence, a lack of proper systems, and the problems inherent in keeping paper records”.

“That said, the possibility that there may have been occasions in the past when records may deliberately have been left incomplete or have been filleted remains,” Sir Brian wrote.

He said there are “reasons for concern”, but it is not possible to reach firm conclusions.

“Although there is suspicion that some health authorities or individuals reacted in a similar manner to what was happening around them, by hiding, removing or destroying some records that might be an embarrassment, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that a finding to this effect is justified across the board,” the chairman said.

The lack of medical records has made it difficult for some to apply for compensation.

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