'Whatever it costs': Government set to reveal details of compensation for infected blood victims

Ministers have reportedly earmarked around £10 billion for a compensation package

There must be "justice and accountability" for any wrongdoing in the infected blood scandal, the prime minister has said, as victims and their bereaved families wait to hear details on compensation payouts.

Rishi Sunak said victims affected by the "worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS" have “waited an incredibly long time for justice and the truth”, after vowing the government will pay “whatever it costs”.

Paymaster General John Glen will today set out in Parliament how much people affected by the scandal will be paid in compensation.

Members of the infected blood community expect the government will simplify payments into five main categories: injury, social impact, autonomy, care and financial loss.

Ministers have earmarked around £10 billion for a compensation package.

Following a seven-year probe, the Infected Blood Inquiry identified a “catalogue of systemic, collective and individual failures” that amounted to a “calamity”, with patients knowingly exposed to unacceptable risks of infection.

More than 30,000 people were infected with deadly viruses between the 1970s and early 1990s as they received blood transfusions or blood products while receiving NHS care.

Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff said “the scale of what happened is horrifying”, with more than 3,000 people dead as a result and survivors battling for decades to uncover the truth.

Sir Brian said the contaminated blood disaster is “still happening” because patients who suffered “life-shattering” infections continue to die every week.

The 2,527-page report from the inquiry, published on Monday, found the infected blood scandal “could largely have been avoided” and there was a “pervasive” cover-up to hide the truth.

Ministers failed to act in order to save face and expense, the inquiry said, with the current government criticised for failing to act immediately on recommendations around compensation which were made last year.

Mr Sunak issued a “wholehearted and unequivocal” apology to the victims of the infected blood scandal, saying that the publication of the report into the disaster was “a day of shame for the British state”.

Speaking to reporters on a trip to Austria on Tuesday, Mr Sunak said: “What has happened over decades has been a failure on multiple levels and it is important that yesterday was a day for the community to be heard, and they have waited an incredibly long time for justice and the truth.

“That is why I, rightly as Prime Minister, offered an unequivocal apology to everyone affected by this appalling scandal."

Asked today if there should be criminal prosecutions of those found to have done wrong during the course of the scandal, Mr Sunak said: “As I said yesterday, anyone, people, individuals, where there is evidence of wrongdoing, of course there must be justice and accountability for that.

“But the report is very long, it is very comprehensive, and what I am committed to is the government will now take the time to go through it properly and rigorously before responding in Parliament, and, of course, any individual cases will be a matter for the relevant authorities.”

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard has also apologised to victims of the scandal on behalf of the health service in England, adding that people “put their trust in the care they got from the NHS over many years, and they were badly let down”.

After a decades-long battle for justice, campaigners welcomed the probe’s recommendations but lamented the fact delays meant many of those responsible would never be held to account.

Corporate manslaughter charges are “extremely” unlikely, according to lawyers, despite calls from former health secretary and now Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham for a full consideration of prosecutions against Whitehall departments.

Clive Smith, chairman of The Haemophilia Society and also a criminal barrister, said: “One of the aspects that, sadly, the delay has caused is the fact that there are doctors out there who should have been prosecuted for manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, doctors who were testing their patients for HIV without consent, not telling them about their infections.

“Those people should have been in the dock for gross negligence manslaughter.

“Sadly, because of the delay, that’s one of the consequences that so many people will not see justice as a result.”

Public inquiries are prohibited from making any recommendations about prosecutions but other countries affected by the scandal have seen ministers brought before the courts.

In the UK, corporate manslaughter prosecutions are less likely to happen, according to Ben Harrison, head of public law at Milners, which represents core participants in the inquiry.

He tsaid: “First and foremost, corporate manslaughter is governed by 2007 legislation which does not apply retrospectively to a time when Crown Immunity existed for any such offence; the time at which so many were tragically and fatally infected.

“I think the chances of any form of corporate manslaughter investigation taking place are extremely remote.”

Mr Burnham had said at a Sunday Times campaign event earlier on Monday: “There must be accountability. And there must now be full consideration of prosecutions, and I would include in that the potential for corporate manslaughter charges against Whitehall departments.”

The report from the inquiry, published on Monday, found deliberate attempts were made to conceal the disaster, including evidence of Whitehall officials destroying documents, the seven-year probe found.

Credit: PA

He said the “level of suffering is difficult to comprehend” and that the harms done to people have been compounded by the reaction of successive governments, the NHS and the medical profession.

Inquiry Chair Sir Brian said: “What I have found is that disaster was no accident.

“People put their trust in doctors and the government to keep them safe and that trust was betrayed.

“Then the government compounded that agony by telling them that nothing wrong had been done, that they’d had the best available treatment and that as soon as tests were available they were introduced and both of those statements were untrue.

“That’s why what I’m recommending is that compensation must be paid now and I have made various other recommendations to help make the future of the NHS better and treatment safer.”

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