London, 20th May 2024: The findings of the final report of the Infected Blood Inquiry are horrifying. 

From thousands of patients being needlessly infected with potentially lethal diseases to the cover up that has lasted for decades, there is a great deal to consider.

We hope the families affected by the gross failures of the state and NHS feel vindicated by the final report. We also hope the Government will act on the report’s recommendations. This includes swiftly establishing the body to deliver compensation, the need to incorporate “lessons to be learned” in every doctor’s training, the need for the NHS to embed patient safety as a first principle in its culture, and the report’s recommendations on duty of candour.

The scandal of how thousands of NHS patients were infected with HIV and/or hepatitis C over more than two decades, and then ignored and lied to when seeking answers is described by the chair of the inquiry Sir Brian Langstaff as a ‘calamity’ and ‘avoidable’.

The report reveals issues the Patients Association has raised repeatedly. Today we want to raise three key points that the infected blood scandal has in common with other inquiries and how the healthcare system needs to change: 

  1. Ignoring the patient voice. At the heart of nearly every scandal we see patients’ concerns and experiences either ignored or downgraded and the views of professionals’ favoured. Patients must be treated as equals by professionals, with their views recognised and valued as equally valid. with decisions about care and treatment made jointly between patients and professionals. 
  2. The failure to be truthful about what has happened, leaving people to cope with devastating health consequences entirely on their own. It is clear from the Infected Blood Inquiry that patients and families were lied to and evidence that supported patients’ claims and experiences, destroyed. We wholeheartedly support the report’s recommendations on duty of candour and the proposed responsibility health leaders should have. 
  3. Healthcare professionals must be trained to properly consent patients to any treatment – some of the evidence presented to the Infected Blood Inquiry shows consent was wholly lacking. We hear far too often of cases where information about a procedure or medicine has not been discussed in a way that is clear and understandable to the patient. This simply has to stop. We welcome the report’s comments on consent and the need for clear communication and information to enable patients to give their consent to treatment.

The most tragic similarity among all the scandals is that they were avoidable. At the Patients Association we advocate for patient partnership for a reason: working together with patients improves patient safety, improves outcomes and has the potential to reduce both the NHS’s rising clinical negligence bill and the cost of healthcare. 

Finally, the Patients Association thanks Sir Brian and his team for their important work for the inquiry, especially for putting patients and their relatives at the centre of it, and for shining a light on this scandal. We hope that his recommendations will be acted on, because Sir Brian’s recommendations don’t just honour the patients and families affected by this scandal – they will make healthcare safer for all of us.