Victims of NHS Tainted Blood Scandal Can Launch High Court Action

Wednesday 27th September 2017

In a major ruling by the High Court, victims of the contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s have gained a ruling that allowed around 500 claimants to seek compensation for damages for a scandal involving contaminated blood which according to a recent report infected around 7,500 people and killed at least 2,400 of them.

This comes alongside the announcement in July by Prime Minister Theresa May that there would be a UK-wide inquiry to look into how this disaster took place, with lawyers from the Department of Health calling the decision to allow court action “premature” in the wake of a pending inquiry.

In court proceedings that took place yesterday, court official Senior Master Fontaine heard about the level of infection and the recent update that information that would have helped previous cases had not been disclosed, which affects the Department of Health’s ability to rely on earlier settlements.

The claims are based on the allegation that the Department of Health failed in its legal duty in taking reasonable care in order to prevent injury or loss to NHS patients who were provided with blood products imported into the UK.

The specific product in question, a blood clotting plasma product known as Factor VIII, was imported from the United States of America in large quantities and used to treat people with haemophilia (a genetic disorder where the body’s blood fails to clot normally) and other issues with blood clotting. The problem is the USA has a high prevalence for people with Hepatitis C, a highly infectious disease that spreads through the blood, and as only one infected donor would infect an entire batch of Factor VIII. Pharmaceutical companies, in order to meet demand, paid pretty much anyone to donate blood, which included people with high risk factors, such as prisoners, drug addicts, prostitutes and people known to be infected with HIV and Hepatitis C.

As a result, 4,500 people were infected with Hepatitis C, and over 2,400 of which died from complications. A number were also infected with HIV, at a time when the disease was effectively a death sentence.

It is considered the single worst health disaster in the history of the NHS, and they, as well as well as successive governments who failed to handle the fallout of the scandal as information came to light that revealed that the NHS were more aware of the risks involved, and failed to communicate such risks to patients.

This ruling is the first step in a long journey for people who were victims of a health scandal without equal in the UK, and may possibly be the first chance that the victims as well as families, friends and relatives of those affected may be able to learn the truth about what happened and what happened to cause such a widespread infection, as well as ensuring that lessons are learned to ensure that the tragic situation that has left thousands died and others terminally ill should never happen again.