Infected blood scandal report a long time coming but will not bring solutions, says Swann

Northern Ireland's Health Minister has said the findings of the infected blood scandal are a step in the right direction for those affected but will not bring solutions for all their challenges.

Robin Swann said the hard-hitting findings were a "long time coming". He said the stories of those affected were "harrowing and humbling".

He said he will look at the recommendations and see how they will apply to Northern Ireland.

"There is a learning from national health service across the UK," he told UTV, "This was a whole system failure, in regard to how we let people down who were in the care of the national health system."

He said he had met with those families directly affected and would meet them again following the report's publication.

"This has been a hard time for the families that have been affected and it will not bring solutions to all their challenges because they are deep, they are personal."

He added: "I want to reiterated again on behalf of the Department of Health in Northern Ireland my apology in regards to what happened."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologised, describing the scandal as a "day of shame". He pledged "comprehensive compensation... what ever the cost". He offered an "unequivocal apology".

Rishi Sunak told MPs: “Sir Brian finds a catalogue of systemic, collective and individual failures – each on its own serious, and taken together amounting to a calamity. “And the result of this inquiry should shake our nation to its core. This should have been avoided. It was known these treatments were contaminated, warnings were ignored repeatedly. “Time and again people in positions of power and trust had the chance to stop the transmission of those infections. Time and again they failed to do so.” The infected blood scandal which claimed thousands of lives was "no accident", the inquiry into the disaster concluded.

Labelled the "worst treatment disaster in the NHS," the infected blood scandal saw more than 30,000 people infected with HIV and Hepatitis C after being treated with contaminated blood products.

The long-awaited report released on Monday revealed the risks were "well-known" decades before the infected blood products were used on patients in the UK.

Report author Sir Brian Langstaff concluded "the chief responsibility for the failings lies with successive governments", and that they "showed little interest in finding the truth".

The scandal happened in the 1970s and 1980s, and after decades of campaigning for justice, victims and their families are finally getting answers in a milestone report.

Infected blood scandal report key findings

  • The disaster was not an accident, it could have been avoided and should have been

  • There was a "cover-up" by the NHS and government

  • The risks around the blood products were known about decades before most patients were treated

  • The main responsibility for the failings lies with successive governments, who "showed little interest in finding the truth."

  • Patients were tested without their knowledge or consent and were not informed of the result, sometimes for years, leading many to unknowingly infected loved ones

  • Some people, including children, were "betrayed" by being used in medical trials without their knowledge

  • Key documents about the scandal were "deliberately destroyed" because they "contained material dealing with delays in the UK to the introduction of screening of blood donations for Hepatitis C."

  • There was a "doctor knows best" attitude with treatments going ahead without question

In his damming report, Sir Brian said "lives, dreams, friendships, families and finances were destroyed" by the scandal that "could have been prevented and should have been".

He places the majority of the blame for the disaster on "successive governments," saying they showed "little interest in finding the truth, listening to those infected, or taking action," and refused to admit responsibility in order to "save face".

There have been concerns from victims and campaigners for years there was a cover up by senior government and NHS figures. The report compounds those fears by revealing key files "were deliberately destroyed."

“Standing back, and viewing the response of the NHS and of government overall, the answer to the question ‘was there a cover-up?’ is that there has been", Sir Brian said.

“Not in the sense of a handful of people plotting in an orchestrated conspiracy to mislead, but in a way that was more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications.

“In this way there has been a hiding of much of the truth.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologised to the victims of the infected blood scandal.

He told the Commons: “I want to make a whole-hearted and unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice.

“First to apologies for the failure in blood policy and blood products, and the devastating and so often fatal impact its had on so many lives, including the impact of testaments that were known or proved to be contaminated, the failure to respond to the risk of imported concentrates, the failure to prioritise self-sufficiency in blood, the failure to introduce screening services sooner, and the mismanagement of the response to the emergence of Aids and hepatitis viruses amongst infected blood victims.

“Second to apologise for the repeated failure of the state and our medical professionals to recognise the harm caused. This includes the failure of previous payment schemes, the inadequate levels of funding made available and the failure to recognise hepatitis B victims.

“And third, to apologise for the institutional refusal to face up to these failings and worse to deny and even attempt to cover them up.”

promised to pay “comprehensive compensation” to those affected and infected by the scandal.

“Whatever it costs to deliver this scheme, we will pay it,” he added, saying details would be set out on Tuesday.

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