Earlier this week former Prime Minister Sir John Major described the victims of the infected blood scandal as having suffered “incredibly bad luck”.
What? How can the biggest treatment disaster in the history of the NHS be reduced to such simple terms?
Sir John Major was speaking at the independent statutory public inquiry, established in 2018 by Theresa May, to examine the circumstances in which men, women and children treated by the NHS were given infected blood and infected blood products (Factor VIII) imported from the US in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Up to 30,000 people contracted HIV and Hepatitis C after being given blood treatments and transfusions, most commonly as treatment for haemophilia, on the NHS. Thousands of these victims have since died.
Decades of campaigning to get the answers victims need
Until July 2017, successive governments steadfastly refused to hold a public inquiry into this tragedy. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, no fault has ever been admitted by the government, the NHS, or the pharmaceutical companies who supplied the blood products.
After 40 years of campaigning by the victims and their families, the public inquiry into the scandal, chaired by former judge Sir Brian Longstaff, finally started taking evidence in April 2019 with hearings held in Belfast, Leeds, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London.
- Why patients were given infected blood and blood products;
- The extent to which this continued after the NHS and/or the government were, or should have been, alerted to the risks, and why it continued to happen;
- Why it was that the blood products had to be purchased abroad rather than sourced locally;
- Whether there was a deliberate attempt to conceal details of what had happened, both at the time it occurred and later.
The inquiry team is expected to publish its final report in mid-2023. Thereafter compensation for the victims could run into billions of pounds, forcing the government to put right a wrong that has been a blight on the NHS for almost half a century.
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