'A day of shame for British state': Sunak sorry over infected blood scandal

The scandal led to 3,000 deaths and thousands more contracting hepatitis or HIV, a public inquiry found. (Photo/Reuters)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that the findings of a report into the infected blood scandal were a day of shame for the British state involving ministers, government officials and people working in the health service.

"I want to make a wholehearted unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice," he told parliament on Monday and promised full compensation to those affected.

The scandal led to 3,000 deaths and thousands more contracting hepatitis or HIV, a public inquiry found.

"This is a day of shame for the British state," Sunak told parliament. "The result of this inquiry should shake our nation to its core."

Inquiry chair Brian Langstaff said more than 30,000 people received infected blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s from Britain's state-funded National Health Service, destroying lives, dreams and families.

The government hid the truth to "save face and to save expense", he said, adding that the cover-up was "more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications" than any orchestrated conspiracy plot.

The families of victims and survivors had sought justice for years and Langstaff, who led a six-year inquiry, said the scale of what happened was both horrifying and astonishing.

'Disaster was not an accident'

In some cases, blood products made from donations from US prisoners or other high-risk groups paid to donate were used on children, infecting them with HIV or hepatitis C, long after the risks were known.

Other victims were used in medical trials without their knowledge or consent. Those who contracted HIV were often shunned by their communities.

"This disaster was not an accident," said Langstaff to a standing ovation from campaigners.

"The infections happened because those in authority - doctors, the blood services and successive governments - did not put patient safety first."

Stephen Lawrence received blood after he was knocked down by a police car in London in 1985. Two years later, he was diagnosed with HIV and Hepatitis C at the age of 15.

"I was accused of being on drugs, drinking, all that," he told Reuters, adding that he had not been compensated because his records had gone missing.

"It's about justice," he said. "I've been struggling with this for 37 years."

The British government agreed in 2022 to make an interim payment of $126,990 to some of those affected.

Clive Smith, chair of the Haemophilia Society, said the scandal had rocked faith in the medical establishment. "It challenges the trust that we put in people to look after us, to do their best and protect us," he told reporters.


Source: TRT