U.K. tainted blood scandal victims to receive final compensation starting this year

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Victims of the U.K.’s infected blood scandal, in which tens of thousands of people were infected by contaminated blood or blood products provided by the public health service, will start receiving their final compensation payments this year, the government said Tuesday.

Officials announced the compensation plans a day after the publication of a damning report that found civil servants and doctors exposed patients to unacceptable risks by giving them blood transfusions or blood products tainted with HIV or hepatitis from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

The report said successive U.K. governments refused to admit wrongdoing and tried to cover up the scandal, in which an estimated 3,000 people died after receiving the contaminated blood or blood products.

In total, the report said about 30,000 people were infected with HIV or hepatitis C, a kind of liver infection, over the period. The scandal is seen as the deadliest disaster in the history of Britain’s state-run National Health Service since its inception in 1948.

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Cabinet Office Minister John Glen told lawmakers on Tuesday that he recognized that “time is of the essence” as he announced that many victims will receive a further interim compensation of 210,000 pounds ($267,000) within 90 days, ahead of the establishment of the full payment plan.

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He also announced that friends and family of those infected would also be eligible to claim compensation.

Authorities made a first interim payment of 100,000 pounds in 2022 to each survivor and bereaved partner. Glen did not confirm the total cost of the compensation package, though it is reported to be more than 10 billion pounds ($12.7 billion).

Campaigners have fought for decades to bring official failings to light and secure government compensation. The inquiry was finally approved in 2017, and over the past four years it reviewed evidence from more than 5,000 witnesses and over 100,000 documents.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologized for the “decades-long moral failure at the heart of our national life” on Monday. The long-awaited report marked “a day of shame for the British state,” he said.

Many of those affected were people with hemophilia, a condition affecting the blood’s ability to clot. In the 1970s, patients were given a new treatment from the United States that contained plasma from high-risk donors, including prison inmates, who were paid to give blood.

Because manufacturers of the treatment mixed plasma from thousands of donations, one infected donor would compromise the whole batch.

The report said around 1,250 people with bleeding disorders, including 380 children, were infected with HIV -tainted blood products. Three-quarters of them have died. Up to 5,000 others who received the blood products developed chronic hepatitis C.

An estimated 26,800 others were also infected with hepatitis C after receiving blood transfusions, often given in hospitals after childbirth, surgery or an accident, the report said.

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