Infected blood scandal should ‘shake nation to core’, says PM as he offers apology

Politics

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has offered a “wholehearted and unequivocal” apology to the victims of the infected blood scandal, saying it was a “day of shame for the British state”.

Mr Sunak said the findings of the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report should “shake our nation to its core”, as he promised to pay “comprehensive compensation to those infected and those affected”, adding: “Whatever it costs to deliver this scheme, we will pay it.”

The report from the inquiry’s chair Sir Brian Langstaff blamed “successive governments, the NHS, and blood services” for failures that led to 30,000 people being “knowingly” infected with either HIV or Hepatitis C through blood products – around 3,000 of whom have now died.

And he said for any government apology to be “meaningful”, it had to be “accompanied by action”.

Politics live: Thatcher’s health secretary ‘disparaging’ to infected blood victims

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sunak called it a “calamity”, saying the report showed a “decades-long moral failure at the heart of our national life”, as he condemned the actions of the NHS, civil service and ministers – “institutions in which we place our trust failed in the most harrowing and devastating way”.

The prime minister said they “failed this country”, adding: “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.

“I want to make a whole-hearted and unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice.”

Image:
Victims and campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster.
Pic. PA

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Pointing to key findings in the report – from the destruction of documents through to failures over screening – Mr Sunak said there had been “layer upon layer of hurt endured across decades”.

He also apologised for the “institutional refusal to face up to these failings and worse, to deny and even attempt to cover them up”, adding: “This is an apology from the state to every single person impacted by this scandal.

“It did not have to be this way. It should never have been this way. And on behalf of this and every government’s stretching back to the 1970s, I am truly sorry.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also apologised for his party’s part in the scandal, telling the Commons: “I want to acknowledge to every single person who has suffered that in addition to all of the other failings, politics itself failed you.

“That failure applies to all parties, including my own. There is only one word, sorry.”

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Infected blood victims ‘betrayed’ by NHS

In his report, released earlier on Monday, Sir Brian issued 12 recommendations – including an immediate compensation scheme and ensuring anyone who received a blood transfusion before 1996 was urgently tested for Hepatitis C.

But it also called for compensation – something Mr Sunak said would come and would be outline din the Commons on Tuesday.

But speaking to Sky News’ Sarah Jane Mee, he warned the “disaster” of the scandal still wasn’t over, saying: “More than 3,000 have died, and deaths keep on happening week after week.

“I’d like people to take away the fact that this is not just something which happened. It is happening.”

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Inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff spoke to Sky’s Sarah-Jane Mee.

Sir Brian said what had happened to the victims was “no accident”, adding: People put their trust in the doctors and the government to keep them safe. That trust was betrayed.

“And then the government compounded the agony by repeatedly saying that no wrong had been done.”

But he hoped the report would ensure “these mistakes are not repeated”.

He told Sky News: “We don’t want another 30,000 people to go into hospital and come out with infections which were avoidable, which are life shattering, which were no accident.

“And we don’t want the government to end up being defensive about them – but instead to be candid [and] forthcoming in in the ways which I’ve just suggested.”

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