Report exposes UK government's 'catalogue of failures' in infected blood scandal

  • British authorities and the Public Health Service knowingly exposed patients to deadly infections through contaminated blood and products, a report has found.
  • An estimated 3,000 people died and many suffered lifelong illnesses related to HIV or hepatitis in the 1970s and 1990s.
  • This scandal is considered the deadliest in the history of the British National Health Service.

British authorities and the country's public health service committed a “catalogue of failures” and knowingly exposed tens of thousands of patients to deadly infections through contaminated blood and blood products, an investigation found on Monday on the infected blood scandal in the United Kingdom.

In the UK, it is estimated that around 3,000 people died and many more people were left ill for life after receiving blood or blood products contaminated with HIV or hepatitis in the 1970s and early from the 1990s.

The scandal is widely considered the deadliest disaster in the history of Britain's National Health Service since its creation in 1948.


Former judge Brian Langstaff, who chaired the inquiry, criticized successive governments and medical professionals for failing to avoid tragedy to save face and expense. It found that deliberate attempts had been made to cover up the disaster and that there was evidence that government officials had destroyed documents.

Infected blood activists react

Infected blood campaigners react as they gather in Parliament Square, ahead of the publication of the final report into the scandal, in London, May 19, 2024. British authorities and the country's public health service have committed a “catalogue of failures” and knowingly exposed Tens of thousands of patients suffered fatal infections caused by contaminated blood and blood products, according to an investigation Monday into the infected blood scandal in the United Kingdom. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)

“This disaster was not an accident. The infections occurred because the authorities – doctors, blood transfusion services and successive governments – failed to prioritize patient safety,” he said. -he declares. “The response of the authorities in place has only worsened the suffering of the population.”

Many of those affected were people with hemophilia, a disease affecting the ability of blood to clot. In the 1970s, patients received a new treatment imported from the United States by the United Kingdom. Some of the plasma used to make the blood products came from high-risk donors, including inmates, who were paid to give blood samples.

Because the treatment's manufacturers were mixing plasma from thousands of donations, one infected donor would compromise the entire batch.

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The report said that approximately 1,250 people with bleeding disorders, including 380 children, were infected by HIV-contaminated blood products. Three quarters of them died. Up to 5,000 other people who received the blood products developed chronic hepatitis C, a type of liver infection.

Meanwhile, an estimated 26,800 other people were also infected with hepatitis C after receiving a blood transfusion, often given after childbirth, surgery or an accident, according to the report.

Activists have fought for decades to highlight official failures and obtain government compensation. The inquiry was finally approved in 2017, and over the past four years it has examined evidence from more than 5,000 witnesses and more than 100,000 documents.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to apologize on Monday and authorities are expected to announce compensation worth around $12.7 billion in total for victims. Details of that payment are not expected until Tuesday.


Des Collins, a lawyer representing 1,500 victims, called the release of the report a “day of truth.”

“They have spent years bravely telling their stories, campaigning and spurring collective action to get to this point. For some, it has been 40 years since their lives were ruined forever or loved ones were were lost in cruel circumstances,” he said. “Unfortunately, several thousand people have not survived to this day.”

Diana Johnson, a lawmaker who has long campaigned for victims, said she hoped those responsible for the disaster would be brought to justice, including prosecution, even though investigations have taken so long that some of the major players may well have since died.

“There needs to be accountability for actions that were taken, even if it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago,” she said.


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