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The infected blood scandal and victim's rights to compensation

View profile for Laura Sheehan
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The infected blood scandal and victims rights to compensation

News of the infected blood scandal has recently hit the press again since the report stemming from the inquiry was finalised. The public inquiry has described the scale of the scandal as ‘horrifying’, but what is the scandal all about? 

In the 1970s the UK was struggling to meet the demand for blood-clotting treatments so to combat that, it imported supplies from the United States. However, a lot of the blood was from high-risk donors such as prisoners and drug users. Two main groups of NHS patients were affected, the first being haemophiliacs and those with similar blood clotting disorders and the second were patients who were given blood transfusions after surgery, child birth or other medical treatment. A product called factor VIII was made to treat the first group of patients by combining plasma from tens of thousands of donors. This meant that if just one was carrying the virus, the entire batch could have been contaminated. Overall, thousands of patients, adults and children, were infected with HIV, hepatitis C or both. Some children patients also unintentionally passed HIV to their parents. In total it’s believed that around 2,900 patients have died to date as a result of the contamination. 

To make matters more shocking, the inquiry found that there had been repeated failings with regard to the risk of viral infections in blood products. By the mid-1970s, there were repeated warnings that the imports from the US carried a greater risk of infection however attempts at making the UK more self-sufficient failed and so the UK continued to obtain supplies from abroad.

The inquiry report findings are damming and very critical of the authorities for failing to put patient safety first. The government has now published a document which details the compensation individuals can expect to receive if they have been affected by the scandal.  A summary of the compensation scheme can be found here.

As an example, a person infected with HIV can expect to receive (on average) between £2.2 and £2.6 million. The compensation scheme is expected to cost billions of pounds in total. It is available not just to the injured parties themselves but to others eligible under the criteria such as family members. There are however time limits on the scheme so we’d urge anyone affected to review the scheme criteria and register without delay.