Contaminated blood scandal: What happened and what are the victims demanding?

The inquiry into the scandal was due to publish its final report this autumn but it will now be published in March 2024 (Factor 8 Campaign/PA) (PA Media)
The inquiry into the scandal was due to publish its final report this autumn but it will now be published in March 2024 (Factor 8 Campaign/PA) (PA Media)

Government officials have confirmed that people impacted by the infected blood scandal are set to receive interim payments as part of an extended compensation scheme.

In the 1970s and 1980s, at least 30,000 people were thought to have contracted hepatitis C and HIV as a result of contaminated blood imported from the US.

Thousands of Brits are thought to have died as a result of what's been considered one of the NHS's worst healthcare disasters.

Campaigners have desperately been trying to get compensation for the contaminated blood scandal. However, they feared that many people may have died before receiving compensation.

Those campaigning claimed that one person impacted by the scandal dies every four days, and time is running out.

An ongoing inquiry into the infected blood scandal is set to publish its final report on May 20. The report will offer recommendations for compensation for those impacted and their loved ones.

The news comes as the inquiry also revealed that initial studies at the time called hepatitis C “tolerable”, omitting information about deaths in a follow-up study.

So, what exactly is the infected blood scandal? Here's everything you need to know.

What is the infected blood scandal?

In the 70s and 80s, thousands of UK patients were given blood transfusions or blood products that had been contaminated with hepatitis C or HIV.

The majority of people who were affected were patients who had hemophilia, as their condition meant they regularly needed blood treatment. These patients were being treated with Factor Concentrates, which is a mixture of thousands of blood samples.

According to the Hepatitis C Trust, more than 50% of blood products in the UK were imported from the USA because of a shortage.

Americans were paid to donate their blood, and samples weren't being tested for hepatitis C and HIV, meaning contaminated blood was sent to the UK.

The Hemophilia Society explains that many people were unaware at the time that they had contracted these viruses, meaning some passed them on to their partners. The organization also reveals that at least 380 children with bleeding disorders were infected with HIV.

Many people were unaware until years later that they had been exposed to hepatitis C or HIV, leading them to feel a lot of guilt about others they may have infected.

In 2017, the Infected Blood Inquiry was announced to look into how this scandal was able to happen.

A former High Court judge called Sir Brian Langstaff was announced as the chair and said: “Providing infected blood and plasma products to patients truly deserves to be called a major scandal. I intend through this inquiry to be able to provide both some well-needed answers to the victims and their families and recommend steps to ensure that its like will never happen again.”

What do victims want?

Many people affected by the scandal want justice and want the failures of those involved to be acknowledged.

It took public outcry and an ITV drama to bring the Horizon/Post Office scandal to the forefront for UK politicians. However, the contaminated blood scandal has so far received less attention.

Six years after campaigners secured the inquiry, little has been done to compensate all the people whose lives were impacted by this scandal.

Independent advisors had advised the government that a publicly-funded scheme to compensate those infected and bereaved family members should be implemented.

While interim £100,000 payments have been made to some of those impacted, not everyone affected was provided with financial compensation.

In December 2023, some politicians suggested that the government must wait for the results of the inquiry in 2024 before making any final decisions.

Cabinet office minister John Glen said: "For these reasons, the government is not yet in a position to share any final decisions on compensation.

"However, members across this house have made clear that we must do right by the victims and the government recognises this, and I am personally committed to making sure that we do that."

What is the Infected Blood Inquiry?

The Infected Blood Inquiry was set up in 2018 after years of campaigning to look into the scandal's impact.

Overseen by Sir Brian Langstaff, the inquiry consists of lawyers, legal professionals and civil servants.

It collects evidence and statements to document the ongoing impact, as well as offer guidance on how to support people affected.

Based on Langstaff’s recommendations, the compensation scheme is now being extended to  “estates of the deceased infected people who were registered with existing or former support schemes”.

Further details will be expected once the official report is released later this month.