'A national disaster that's never had the recognition it should': New evidence in NHS blood scandal

Jason Evans, pictured as a child with his father, who died from Hepatitis C and AIDS - a victim of the infected blood scandal. Credit: ITV Exposure

A new ITV Exposure documentary airing on Sunday evening, In Cold Blood, examines what has been called the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history - how thousands of British haemophiliacs were infected and died from HIV and Hepatitis C after being prescribed infected blood products by the NHS. This week, a public inquiry into the scandal reopened.

The programme features new evidence unearthed by Jason Evans, a campaigner whose father died from Hepatitis C and AIDS, including receipts for the destruction of files relating to an alleged government cover-up of the prescription of tainted blood products.Here, Jason gives his insight into what he found and the process of making the documentary.

I knew my dad should not have died from Hepatitis C and AIDS. Neither should hundreds of others.

At that moment, among those documents, the truth I'd feared to contemplate since I was a young boy hit me with blunt force.

In this room, I was sure I had proof that the government killed him, covered it up, and continued to lie about it for decades.

Jason Evans' father was one of more than a thousand victims of the NHS infected blood scandal. Credit: ITV Exposure

I've been campaigning on the issue of the infected blood scandal for five years. No longer would I remain a silent observer. I have now put in more than 1,500 Freedom of Information requests to public authorities. I have, consciously, dedicated my life to the pursuit of making sure that the record is set straight.

The evidence we have managed to uncover shows that this scandal is not going away. The more we learn, the darker it becomes.

The story goes back to the 1970s when a new treatment for haemophilia, Factor VIII concentrate, was prescribed on the NHS. It went on to infect at least 1,243 people with HIV and more than 4,000 people with Hepatitis C. Every wrong decision that could be made, was made. Untreated Factor VIII concentrate should never have been licensed for use.

People in the USA were paid for their plasma; that practice did not exist in the UK. The USA centres where they paid skid-row drug addicts and prostitutes for their blood, were collecting the bullets that the UK Department of Health would fire from the gun.

Because Factor VIII was made by mixing together thousands of plasma donations, it was a disaster waiting to happen. It had been known going back to the 1950s that this was a dangerous process.

Jason Evans with the new evidence he uncovered. Credit: ITV Exposure

A letter from a transfusion centre to the Department of Health in 1950 said: "I have decided to abandon large pool plasma filtration. I do not feel I can justifiably continue to issue large pool plasma which has an incidence of homologous serum jaundice of 10 per cent, as opposed to one per cent for small pool plasma. Were a case of homologous serum jaundice to go to the law courts, and large pool plasma to be implicated, I don't think the court would be kindly disposed."

One way of making Factor VIII safer was by heat treatment. Yet, for years after the Department of Health was warned about the risks of AIDS from Factor VIII, non-heated Factor concentrates were still available on the NHS. Even after people started to die from AIDS in the 1980s.

Yet most haemophiliacs weren't told they had HIV or Hepatitis C for years. I'm very conscious that most of those infected with both viruses were dead by 1996. I believe this documentary serves as a testament to them, their memory. This campaign isn't about me - it's about them.

Among the impacted families are now good friends of mine, Colin and Denise Turton, whose story features in the film. They lost their son Lee to HIV, aged just ten. He had been suffering in agony before his death. It's sickening.

When you look at this in terms of numbers, with thousands infected, well over 1,500 dead, compared to all the other major national disasters - Hillsborough, the Birmingham bombings, Grenfell - this eclipses all of them put together. Yet it has never had that public recognition. It's thanks to Des and Dani at Collins Solicitors that eventually we would have the backing needed to shine a light that, at least the government, could no longer ignore.

Lord Owen gave evidence at the inquiry into the scandal this week. This documentary I've been working on with the producers for over a year comes at the right time.

All eyes have been on the Department of Health and Social Care during the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm hoping this film will give viewers an insight into a tragedy, the scale and impact of which has not resonated as widely as others in Britain, until now.

In response to the programme's allegations, Nadine Dorries, Minister of State for Patient Safety, said: "The infected blood tragedy should never have happened, and the ongoing public inquiry was set up to establish the truth and provide individuals and families the answers they rightly deserve.

"We recognise the ongoing pain and suffering caused and...continue to provide information to ensure the inquiry can publicly explore any issues of concern carefully and fully. It is critical we continue to support those affected.

"We are providing financial and other support through the England Infected Blood Support Scheme and...I will endeavour to do all that I possibly can to ensure this process reaches a conclusion as swiftly and fairly as possible for the benefit of all those who are still suffering and have my genuine, heartfelt sympathy."

In Cold Blood is on ITV at 10.20pm on Sunday 27 September - and available after broadcast on the ITV Hub