Infected Blood Inquiry hearings end
Written by Jessica Bomford, February 2, 2023
The Infected Blood Inquiry ends this week, marking another massive milestone in the long road towards truth and justice for all those infected and affected by contaminated blood products.
Public hearings finish tomorrow, leaving Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the inquiry, to consider all the evidence that has been collected over the last five years. His final report is due to be published in the summer.
In 2020 Sir Brian likened his task to that of ‘solving a million-piece jigsaw puzzle’. Each witness, statement and document has given him more parts of that puzzle. We believe Sir Brian has now got enough pieces to see the full picture of what went wrong and why.
We pay tribute to the courage of all those infected and affected who gave evidence to the inquiry, some of whom had never spoken publicly about their experiences before. Without their testimony, this inquiry could not have got to the core of this disaster.
Clive Smith, Chair of the Haemophilia Society (THS), said: ‘Sir Brian inspires great confidence with his carefully worded observations and insightful questions. He and his team have put those infected and affected by this scandal at the heart of their investigations and treated everyone with compassion and respect. I can’t thank them enough for the dignified way in which this inquiry has been conducted.’
The inquiry, which was announced in 2017 by Prime Minister Theresa May, has heard evidence from more than 200 people who were infected and affected by contaminated blood products as well as prominent politicians, leading clinicians, scientists and civil servants in its attempt to uncover the truth.
Kate Burt, THS Chief Executive, said: ‘The immense suffering caused by this avoidable NHS treatment disaster has been deepened by decades of denial from successive governments who have failed to accept responsibility for what happened. Evidence to the inquiry clearly shows that many infections and deaths could have been prevented if government had responded more quickly to known risks in blood and blood products used as treatment in the UK in the 1970s and 80s.
‘Government must address mistakes of the past by acknowledging what went wrong and committing to pay full compensation to those infected and their families.’
Around 5,000 men, women and children with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were infected with hepatitis C and/or HIV in the 1970s and 80s through treatment with contaminated blood products. Partners of people with HIV were also infected. We know that at least 1,243 people were infected with HIV, 380 of whom were children. Thousands more were infected with hepatitis C through blood transfusions. At least 500 people who were infected have died since the inquiry was announced.
The inquiry, which has so far cost £102m, has sifted through millions of documents as part of its investigations. It has also received thousands of written statements from people infected and affected which will all be read by Sir Brian.
As well as gathering at the inquiry to hear evidence, lots of people got strength from meeting others who had been through similar experiences. For some, it was the first time they’d met anyone else who understood what they’d been through or could talk openly about what had happened to them. Many of us will miss the ‘safe space’ the inquiry offered our community.
The Haemophilia Society, along with other campaign groups, is calling on the government to work with the infected and affected community to agree a framework for compensation ready to implement when the final report is published later this year. We continue to work to ensure full compensation is paid to everyone infected and affected, including bereaved parents, children and siblings who do not receive any financial support.
The inquiry will continue to provide psychological support through the Red Cross until at least its final report is published. Call 0800 458 9473 or 0203 417 0280 to access this service. Find help and advice on accessing psychological support throughout the UK here.
Although the inquiry hearings are ending, we will continue to keep you updated on any developments through our dedicated Facebook and Twitter pages and our website. Email us at [email protected] with any questions or comments.