What we know about the contaminated blood scandal

The contaminated blood scandal has been dubbed one of the worst treatment disasters in the history of the NHS.

Demonstrators hold placards reading message related to the NHS infected blood scandal as Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is questioned by Infected Blood Inquiry, in London, on July 26, 2023. About 2,900 people died in the UK after they were given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 80s. The inquiry is set to examine how thousand of patients in country were infected with HIV and hepatitis C and how authorities and the government, responded to what has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
The Infected Blood Inquiry is due to unveil its final report on 20 May, following decades of campaigning by those affected. (Getty)

Surviving victims and relatives of those affected by the infected blood scandal are hoping to finally get some closure when the public inquiry into it publishes its final report next month.

The Infected Blood Inquiry, which has spent six years of taking evidence, will finally unveil its report on 20 May.

For those involved, the date cannot come soon enough after it emerged earlier this month that almost 100 victims of scandal have died in the year since the final recommendations were made on compensation, a charity has said.

On 5 April, the Terrence Higgins Trust said 100 more people had died without receiving the compensation they deserved, describing the date as “another grim anniversary for those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal”.

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, with more than 3,000 having died in what has been dubbed the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Here is everything we know about the infected blood scandal and what has happened and not happened so far:-

What is the contaminated blood scandal?

In the 1970s and 1980s about 6,000 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were treated with contaminated blood products containing HIV and hepatitis viruses.

According to the Haemophilia Society, the danger of contamination was made worse by a shortage of UK-produced factor concentrate meant it was imported from the US, which used blood from high-risk paid donors, such as prisoners and drug addicts.

It is thought around 30,000 people were infected and more than 3,000 have died in what has been described by MPs as the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.

The Haemophilia Society estimates that since the Infected Blood Inquiry was announced in July 2017, a further 650 people infected and affected by the scandal will have died by the time the final report is published in May 2024.

What is the Infected Blood Inquiry?

In 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a public inquiry would be held into the contaminated blood scandal following years of campaigning by victims and their families.

Led by former judge Sir Brian Langstaff, the inquiry opened in 2018 and took evidence between 2019 and 2023. Witnesses included patients affected by the scandal, as well as doctors and politicians including Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak.

The inquiry has heard harrowing stories from those affected, including children and babies who were infected and the impact that had on them and their families.

Families initially expected the inquiry's final report to be published in autumn 2023 but that has been pushed back twice, with Sir Brian saying more time was needed to prepare "a report of this gravity".

The inquiry's final report is now due to be published on 20 May 2024.

Infected blood victims and campaigners protest on College Green in Westminster, London calling for action on compensation payments for victims of the infected blood scandal. Picture date: Wednesday February 28, 2024. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Infected blood victims and campaigners have been calling for action on compensation payments for victims of the infected blood scandal. (Getty)

Who has received compensation?

Until 2022, no compensation had ever been paid to victims of the contaminated blood scandal in the UK.

That year Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry, made an interim recommendation that interim compensation of £100,000 should be paid to everyone currently registered on a UK infected blood support scheme.

This was accepted by the government and payment was made to around 4,000 people in October 2022, but many groups affected by the scandal were excluded, such as bereaved parents, siblings and children.

In April 2023, Sir Brian made final recommendations on compensation saying he “could not in conscience add to the decades-long delays” victims had already faced. He said a number of people had gone “unrecognised” – including parents who lost children and children orphaned when their parents died, and “no time must be wasted in delivering redress”.

But the government has said it would be "inappropriate" to consider final compensation payments before the final report is published, prompting criticism that it is dragging its feet over compensation.

What will happen on 20 May?

On 20 May the final report from the inquiry will be published, giving some closure to those affected by the scandal and their families. The inquiry team has said that the report will “set out and explain the many failings at systemic, collective and individual levels over more than six decades”.

Campaigners will also be hoping that the publication of the report will mean the government follows recommendations and awards compensation to those suggested by Sir Brian.

Jason Evans, director of the campaign group Factor 8, previously said: “For six years, victims and families have patiently followed every twist and turn of the inquiry. They have campaigned, they have cried, and sadly, many have died.

“The publication of Sir Brian Langstaff’s final report will mark the end of our battle for the truth, though due to government inaction, the fight for compensation goes on.

“Though many in our community are frustrated to hear of the delay, they are very conscious that the government has everything it needs to act on compensation now, and Sir Brian has made this crystal clear in his remarks today. People are dying without full compensation.”

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