South Shields MP pushes Government on blood scandal criminal charges as victims react and NHS apologises

A Tyneside MP demanded the Government speak up about the prospect of bringing criminal charges against individuals or organisations over the contaminated blood scandal.

Meanwhile, those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal thanked Sir Brian Langstaff for "listening" - and turned the focus on the Government and the NHS to act to ensure justice and that this never happens again.

On Monday, Sir Brian Langstaff presented his final report after a public inquiry that has lasted since 2017 and described how a catalogue of failings - in the Government, in the NHS and further afield, had led to the deaths of more than 3,000 people. A total of at least 30,000 people were infected with lethal viruses on the NHS.

In response, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke of a "day of shame for the British state" and made an "unequivocal" apology. Now ministers have presented further detail on plans for full compensation for those infected and affected.

Speaking after Cabinet Office minister John Glen announced plans to begin paying full compensation by the end of this year, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck (Lab) said: "Yesterday's apologies and this compensation is the beginning of justice for the thousands lives lost and ruined. But [John Glen MP] will know that Sir Brian Langstaff found 'downright deception', 'an attitude of denial' and that he was clear 'this was no accident'."

Campaigner Sean Cavens at the infected blood inquiry in London
Campaigner Sean Cavens at the infected blood inquiry in London -Credit:Sean Cavens

She continued: "Public service is an honour that comes with great responsibility. Individuals and organisations have failed in that responsibility and betrayed that honour. Can [the minister] indicate to us when the Government will express a view on criminal charges?"

Mr Glen responded that he could not give "a categorical assurance" but that a debate in parliament in the coming weeks could offer an opportunity to explore this. He added: "The evidence and where it leads us will determine what the options are. These are serious matters that need a serious response from Government."

Speaking following the publication of Sir Brian's report, those who have been fighting for justice told ChronicleLive how they had been moved by the former High Court judge's diligence and dedication. Sir Brian's report vindicated campaigners who have spent decades telling how they were victims of huge injustice. He said: "This was no accident."

He said much of the scandal could have been avoided - and that there had been effort on the part of Government figures and NHS doctors to "hide the truth".

Afterwards, Andrew Bragg - who contracted hepatitis C through a blood transfusion - spoke of how he was pleased that Sir Brian had taken on board some of his concerns about institutional failings within the NHS. He said Sir Brian's recommendations for a "decluttered" regulatory landscape in healthcare and statutory "duty of candour" for healthcare leaders were welcome.

When Andrew - who worked in the chemicals industry including at ICI - gave evidence at the Infected Blood Inquiry he had spoken of the importance of the NHS fundamentally improving how it deals with risk.

He said: "I think Sir Brian has done a very very good job." He said there was a need for "top-down" leadership that encouraged people to speak up about potential issues and near-misses in the health service, before something was to go terribly wrong.

He added: "It's a huge ask but the NHS really needs to start asking itself these questions and learning from other industries."

Cramlington campaigner Sean Cavens, who has hepatitis after receiving tainted blood products, told ChronicleLive: "Firstly I just want to thank those who have campaigned on this for so long [and given] their hard work to piece together the lies, cover-up and deception - and to hold onto those hard copies [of records]."

Sean cited friend and fellow campaigner Bruce Norval saying that those who have been fighting for justice have been "standing on the shoulders of giants". He paid tribute to his lawyers Thompsons added: "They and we have been vindicated, Sir Brian has heard their voices from beyond the grave."

He said he was pleased Sir Brian had agreed that the disaster was "not an accident", a campaign slogan that has been used over the years. He added: "I feel vindicated, and although this doesn’t give me my health back nor a life that could have been having been infected at one. I am grateful to all those involved at the Infected Blood Inquiry and thank them."

He said while Rishi Sunak had apologised, it was now time to back up his words with actions. "Now that it’s clear what’s happened, there can be no more delays," he said. "Get on with it now."

Boldon mum Emma Frame - whose dad Jeffrey died of HIV in 1991 - also attended the final report event. She said that the vindication was not a happy day, but brought a degree of closure. She said: "Sir Brian has said what we had all hoped and wanted to hear- though of course it's also what we didn't want to hear too, that this could have been avoided. It's everything that we knew, after all of this time. There's no happy ending, but this has been such a long time coming."

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard has also apologised to victims of the scandal on behalf of the health service in England, adding that people “put their trust in the care they got from the NHS over many years, and they were badly let down”.