An inquiry into the infected blood scandal has singled out several individuals and organisations after over 30,000 patients were “knowingly” infected with HIV or Hepatitis C.

Sir Brian Langstaff, the chair of the inquiry, stated that the “disaster was not an accident” and highlighted a “catalogue of failures” and a “pervasive” cover-up by the NHS and successive governments. More than 30,000 Britons were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. Approximately 3,000 people died as a result, with many more still grappling with health issues, burdensome treatments, and stigma.

In his remarks following the release of the report on Monday, after the seven-year inquiry, Sir Brian commented: “The damage caused was compounded by the reaction of successive governments, the NHS, and the medical profession. Successive governments refused to admit responsibility to save face and expense. Today’s report also found that the response to the infections exacerbated the situation, including repeated failures by governments and the NHS to acknowledge that the victims should not have been infected in the first place.”

The report specifically named individuals and institutions for criticism, including:

  • Lord Clarke: Sir Brian heavily criticised Kenneth Clarke, now a lord, who served as a health minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government from 1982 to 1985, then as health secretary from 1988 to 1990. Lord Clarke’s demeanour during the inquiry was described as “somewhat blasé,” and he was accused of being “argumentative,” “unfairly dismissive,” and “disparaging” towards the afflicted individuals. The report lamented his failure to moderate his combative style and acknowledge the suffering of those affected.
  • The Thatcher government: Margaret Thatcher, along with subsequent governments and health secretaries, consistently claimed that infections were “inadvertent” and patients received “the best treatment available on the then-current medical advice.” However, the inquiry concluded that this assertion was unfounded and lacked a clear factual basis. Sir Brian criticised the government for its inadequate response to the risks of Hepatitis C and HIV transmissions through blood, citing a failure to take action to prevent blood donations from high-risk groups such as prisoners.
  • Treloar School: The Hampshire school, which housed haemophiliac children with an on-site NHS clinic, saw 75 boys die of AIDS and Hepatitis, with 58 surviving infections. The report criticised the school for downplaying the risks of virus transmission to doctors and failing to inform some pupils and parents that the boys had tested positive for HIV.
  • Alder Hey Children’s Hospital: The hospital in Liverpool continued to use Factor 8 concentrate containing contaminated blood to treat children with bleeding disorders, even after other haemophilia centres ceased using them. The hospital’s director, Dr John Martin, disregarded the risk of Hepatitis as a reason to alter treatment regimes, exposing patients to unnecessary risks.
  • Professor Arthur Bloom: A leading haemophiliac specialist during the period under scrutiny, Professor Bloom was criticised for his role in the slow response to the risks of AIDS transmission. His advice influenced the Department of Health and Social Security’s decision to continue importing commercial factor concentrates, despite mounting concerns.

Sir Brian highlighted systemic failures within the NHS and government response, characterising them as more subtle and pervasive than an orchestrated conspiracy. He criticised the concealment of the truth to save face and expense and noted that patients were knowingly exposed to unacceptable risks of infection.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a “wholehearted and unequivocal” apology to victims, acknowledging it as a “day of shame for the British state.” He pledged comprehensive compensation to those affected. The NHS, in a statement on its website, reiterated its commitment to rigorous safety standards in blood screening since 1991, emphasising the low risk of infection from blood transfusions or products.

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