UK Blood ScandalUK Blood Scandal

Let’s take a look at how UK’s national tragedy, stretching over decades, unfolded and what the UK Blood Scandal and ‘contaminated blood’ distribution through healthcare system in UK scandal is all about.

Upon coming under the light, the inquiry was launched during the tenure of former UK PM Theresa May in 2017, this took into the cause of blood contamination born diseases in the 1970s and 1980s. It was estimated that at least 3,000 people died owing to transfusion complications till 2019, IE reported.

the report of an independent inquiry into the United Kingdom’s contaminated blood scandal, published on Monday (May 20). During this inquiry it is found that UK government system took apart in covered up errors which cause to thousands of people being infected with HIV or hepatitis.

The UK’s contaminated blood scandal represents one of the deadliest medical disasters in the history of the UK state owned top health organization National Health Service (NHS).

Inquiry head Brian Langstaff said in his speech that the successive governments worked on to cover the truth to “save face and to save expense” and the cover-up was “more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications” than any orchestrated conspiracy plot, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was “a day of shame for the British state”. “I want to make a wholehearted unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice,” he told parliament. Details of the government’s compensation will be released on Tuesday. Britain is expected to compensate more than 10 billion pounds ($12.70 billion) to the victims.

UK’s blood scandal – Explained: The Blood Scandal That Infected 30,000 And Killed 3,000 People In UK

The UK public inquiry into the infected blood scandal will publish its final report on Monday to uncover what caused the deaths of over 3,000 people. This scandal, considered the deadliest to hit Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) since its start in 1948, involved thousands of people contracting HIV or hepatitis from contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s, killing over 3,000 people.
After almost 6 years of investigation, the report will shed light on the full extent of the tragedy and bring closure to those affected, reported by ABC news UK. In the 1970s and 1980s, many people needing blood transfusions were exposed to contaminated blood tainted with hepatitis and HIV. Hemophiliacs, who needed treatment to help blood clotting, were particularly affected by a new treatment called Factor VIII. The UK’s NHS started using Factor VIII in the early 1970s, believing it to be a groundbreaking treatment, but it later led to widespread infections.

Factor VIII was produced by combining plasma from thousands of donations, meaning that if even one donor was infected, the entire batch could be compromised. As demand for Factor VIII grew, the UK had to import it from the US. However, a significant portion of the plasma used in the US came from high-risk donors, including prisoners and drug users, who were paid to donate blood. This significantly increased the risk of contamination.

The inquiry revealed that over 30,000 people were infected with diseases like hepatitis and HIV due to contaminated blood products involving Factor VIII.

Later in the mid-1970s, it became clear that hemophiliacs treated with Factor VIII were more likely to get hepatitis. The WHO (World Health Organization) warned in 1953 about the risks of mixing plasma products, advising countries to not import plasma.

In the early 1980s, people with haemophilia and those who received blood transfusions started to get AIDS. AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, mainly among gay men. Even though HIV was not recognized as the cause of AIDS until 1983, warnings had been given to the UK government in the previous year that the virus could be spread through blood products.

However, they didn’t take action, and patients were not warned about the risks. As a result, around 3000 people lost their lives, reported ABC.

Were victims of UK Blood Scandal compensated?
In the late 1980s, victims and their families sought compensation claiming medical negligence. A charity was set up in the early 1990s to offer one-time support payments to those with HIV. However, victims could get the money only if they agreed to waive their right to sue the Department of Health. This waiver also barred them from seeking compensation for hepatitis, despite a later diagnosis of hepatitis C.

This inquiry is expected to show that key lessons from the 1940s, where ignored. Advocates say authorities knew heat could kill hepatitis in plasma products like Albumin but failed to make Factor VIII safe before using it. Financial concerns seemed to prevent safety measures, and the NHS kept using non-heated Factor VIII until 1985.

What to expect from the report on UK Blood Scandal:
The report is expected to blame pharmaceutical companies, medical professionals, civil servants, and politicians for their roles in the tragedy. The publication of this all-important report is likely to pave the way for compensation to victims and their families. Campaigners, who lost family, played a big role in getting this scandal noticed. Jason Evans, whose father died in 1993 after getting HIV and hepatitis from infected blood plasma, helped push for an inquiry. He hopes the report will finally bring some closure to those affected.

The inquiry was launched six years ago in 2017, when Theresa May was Prime Minister. It was to look into how tens of thousands contracted the deadly diseases from transfusions of infected blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. Almost 3,000 people were estimated to have died of complications until 2019.

In October 2022, British authorities made interim payments of 100,000 pounds to each survivor and the bereaved kin. What exactly happened and how? We explain.

What is Britain’s Medical Top Organization National Health Service (NHS)?
The NHS is an inclusive public health service under government administration, which was established by the National Health Service Act of 1946 and subsequent legislation in 1948. The entire population of the UK is covered, and health services are provided free of cost to the public, except for certain minimum charges. The NHS as organization provides four regional services — NHS in England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. NHS is the world’s fifth largest employer and the largest non-military public organization, and wields significant market power.

The NHS is considered to have been an effective and efficient health service, some of its recent post-Brexit problems notwithstanding.

Medical services under the NHS are administered in three separate groups: general practitioner and dental services, hospital and specialist services, and local health authority services. And during the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of people who had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia, were given blood donated or sold by people who were infected with the HIV virus and hepatitis. Tainted blood was also given to people who needed blood transfusions after childbirth or surgery.

In the early 1970s, the NHS started using a new treatment for haemophilia called Factor VIII. This was a processed pharmaceutical product that was created by pooling plasma from many donors. Factor VIII was considered to be a “wonder drug” for patients with classical hemophilia and Von Willebrand Syndrome (which is a bleeding disorder in which the patient’s blood cannot clot fully), more efficient and convenient than earlier treatments.

The nature of Factor VIII was such that even one infected donor could compromise the entire batch of the protein. The product used by the NHS was imported from the United States, where a large volume of donated plasma at the time came from prisoners and users of intravenous drugs who were paid for their blood.

The inquiry report has estimated that over 30,000+ people were get infected with HIV, hepatitis C or, as in the case of 1,250 haemophiliacs, both. The Guardian has reported that most hep C infections were seen in transfusion recipients, and as many as 380 children were infected with HIV.

Nearly two-thirds of those who were infected with HIV later died of AIDS-related illnesses, and an unknown number transferred HIV to their partners, a report by The Independent said. The report said that 2,400-5,000 recipients of blood developed hepatitis C, with the exact figure not known yet, as symptoms can show up years later.

Was all of this a gigantic mistake committed inadvertently?

Several reports have stated that school children, some as young as 2 years old, were subjected to medical trials using infected blood products. Documents seen by BBC News have revealed that unsafe clinical testing involved children in the UK, despite families not consenting to take part.

The BBC report said that the majority of the children who enrolled are now dead. Survivors told the BBC and other media outlets that they were treated like “guinea pigs”.

The documents also showed that doctors in haemophilia centers used blood products, even though they were widely known as likely to be contaminated. As per the report, patients were “deliberately given Factor VIII, so they could be enrolled in clinical trials”.

There is evidence that experts called on fellow doctors “to identify patients suitable for clinical trials” and more specifically, “previously untreated patients”.
As per the BBC investigation, of the 122 pupils who attended Treloar’s College between 1974 and 1987, 75 have so far died of HIV and hepatitis C infections.

Another controversy of the time centered on medical trials that involved so-called “placebo” treatments — meaning that children who thought they had been given Factor VIII to prevent bleeds, had in fact been given a saline solution.

With the belief that they could lead a near-normal life after the transfusion, these children engaged in rough outdoor games, only to risk their lives further.

The investigation also revealed that the British government in 1973 knew about the trials at Treloar’s, and also covered some costs.

How did the government react after the scandal was widely known?

It was only after 1985 that all Factor VIII products were heat-treated to kill the HIV virus. However, UK blood donations were not routinely screened for hep C until 1991.

Evidence provided to the inquiry suggests that the British government chose to ignore the seriousness of situation, mainly due to financial considerations. According to a BBC report, official documents from the 1990s showed that cost concerns prevented the NHS from pursuing adequate testing or campaigns to raise awareness, despite many warnings in the mid-1970s that blood donations from the US carried risk of viral infection.

As early as 1953, the World Health Organization (WHO), had warned of the hepatitis risks associated with the mass pooling of plasma products. It urged that dried plasma should be prepared from pools of between 10 to 20 donors to reduce the risk of contamination. In 1974, the UN agency warned Britain not to import blood from countries with a high prevalence of hepatitis, such as the US.

Another warning of the risk of contracting HIV from blood products was issued in 1982. The following year, The Lancet and WHO said haemophiliacs should be told about the dangers of donated plasma.

What has happened from then until now?

In the late 1980s, victims and their families called for compensation on grounds of medical negligence, an AP report said.

According to the report, the government set up a charity to make one-off support payments to those infected with HIV in the early 1990s, but it did not admit liability — and victims were reportedly pressured to sign a waiver undertaking not to sue the UK Department of Health to get the money. Whereas, campaigners kept up the pressure. The campaign, especially, by Jason Evans, whose father died at the age of 31 in 1993 after contracting HIV and hepatitis from an infected blood plasma product, was instrumental in the decision by then Prime Minister May to establish the Infected Blood Inquiry in 2017.

Evans brought a case claiming transgression in public office against the Department of Health.

In a statement to Parliament at the time, May described the scandal as “an appalling tragedy which should simply never have happened”.

In February 2018, it was announced that Sir Brian Langstaff, a former High Court judge, would chair the inquiry. The inquiry got underway on 2 July 2018, following the announcement of its terms of reference, which sets out what and who will be investigated.

Preliminary hearings took place in London in September 2018. The inquiry panel began hearing evidence in public from those infected and affected in April 2019 until December 2022, with final oral submissions taking place until the last day of the inquiry, on 3 February 2023.

This UK Blood Scandal was a lesion to every country in the world and their healthcare system, which needs to adopt the new rules for a safe and vigilant medical treatment SOP’s and safe blood transfusion techniques.

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Prashant V