'Battling for truth': Victims of infected blood scandal lobby for compensation and justice

ITV News Central
Victims impacted by the use of infected blood products, in what is referred to as the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history, gathered in Westminster on Wednesday (28 February) to lobby the Government to act on compensation recommendations. Credit: ITV News Central

Those whose lives have been impacted by the infected blood scandal have gathered in Westminster, calling on the Government for justice and compensation.

It's thought up to as many as thirty thousand men, women and children were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C during the 1970s and 80s due to contaminated blood products.

Thousands of people have since died and campaigners stood outside parliament to protest against the lack of progress on compensation, while people affected continue to die.

Andy Evans, the founder of the Tainted Blood campaign group, told ITV News Central his life has been a "rollercoaster of illness" and a "battle for justice".

Andy, who is a haemophiliac, was infected with HIV and Hepatitis C when he was just 5 years old.

"I was told by my parents when I was thirteen because I started to become ill with HIV symptoms, I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS when I was sixteen", he explains. "I spent most of the next four years in and out of hospital until I was thankfully saved by new combination therapies that came out."

Andy later had to face Hepatitis C and the treatments that came with that diagnosis.

"I'm here to make one final push towards the proper justice and compensation for people who have been fighting now for forty years to get some sort of redress for this scandal", says Andy.

"I've headed up a campaign group since 2006 on this - the aims of which were to achieve compensation, a public inquiry which we now have and hopefully at some point a full apology from the people who were involved in the 70s and 80s."

Andy maintains that warnings in the early stages of the scandal were ignored and many people could have been saved if more had been done.

"We're battling to get the truth known and justice to be served", he adds.

Ros Cooper, from Bewdley in Worcestershire, had a rare blood disorder similar to haemophilia, which required treatment with blood products.

She was diagnosed with Hepatitis C when she was nineteen and says it's not just her physical health that has been impacted.

She says for her it's about much more than money or compensation.

"People like myself who have been irreversibly damaged by this, not just physically but mentally. My entire life has been derailed from the age of nineteen when I found out. You can't put a figure on that", she says.

"You can't sit down and go I'll give you two hundred and fifty thousand pounds and that will cover the loss of your career, the loss of your ability to become a mum, the loss of your ability to become a grandma, because that's never going to happen. The loss of your marriage."

"All sorts of things that I'm having to deal with every day and have for the last thirty years", she adds.

Rosemary Calder from Northamptonshire lost her son Nicky after he was infected with HIV and Hepatitis C as a young boy.

Rosemary says she was informed about her son's condition in a letter when he was 11 years old and they were "left to get on with it".

Nicky died when he was 25, leaving behind a young widow and a 1 year old baby.

Rosemary says there was a huge stigma which meant her family had to mostly struggle in silence. She now runs a support group for other mothers who have been impacted by the scandal.

"I've been without Nicky almost as long I was with him", she says. "How many more are going to die without seeing justice?"

What is the Infected Blood Inquiry?

It has been referred to as the the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history - and a public inquiry has been taking evidence since 2019 from victims infected and affected by the scandal.

An interim report was published in Spring 2023, recommending for a compensation scheme to immediately be set up.

Sir Brian Longstaff, who is chairing the inquiry, also recommended that parents and children of people who received infected blood should receive compensation.

The final report is due in May.

The Government's is waiting for the final report from the public inquiry - due in May - before setting out their approach to full compensation.

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions today, Rishi Sunak said: "We've consistently acknowledged that justice should be delivered. I gave evidence to the public inquiry last year.

"The government has accepted the moral case for compensation, which is why - on Monday, in the other place [The House of Lords] - we committed to bringing forward amendments at report stage of the Victim and Prisoners Bill, with the intention of speeding up the implementation of our response to the Infected Blood Inquiry."