Sheffield Teaching Hospitals apologises for giving patients infected blood and “devastating” consequences

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“We are so very sorry”

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has issued an apology to patients who received infected blood in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.

Tens of thousands of people in the UK were infected with HIV and/or hepatitis after being given contaminated blood or blood products on the NHS, many of whom were children at the time, a public inquiry has found.

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More than three thousand people died, and many others were left with lifelong health problems.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement: “We want to apologise to those patients who received infected blood or blood products at our hospitals between 1970 and the early 1990s. 

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C after being given infected blood products by the NHS (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C after being given infected blood products by the NHS (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)
Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C after being given infected blood products by the NHS (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

“This had devastating consequences for those patients and their loved ones, and we are so very sorry that we did not provide the level of care they rightly expected from us.

“We fully accept the findings of this inquiry and will ensure that we learn from the actions that allowed this to happen and most importantly the experiences of our patients and their families.

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“We would like to stress that today, blood transfusions in the UK are extremely safe due to thorough testing for infections and the use of volunteer blood donors who undergo a rigorous screening process.”

The two main groups of victims of the scandal are people who needed blood transfusions (for example in childbirth or after an accident), and people with bleeding disorders who needed blood or blood products in treatment.

Infected blood campaigners in Parliament Square in London ahead of the publication of the final report into the scandal. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA WireInfected blood campaigners in Parliament Square in London ahead of the publication of the final report into the scandal. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Infected blood campaigners in Parliament Square in London ahead of the publication of the final report into the scandal. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

The final report of the Infected Blood Inquiry was published on Monday (May 20), seven years after it was first announced.

The public inquiry examined questions including: why people were given infected products, what the impact was on families, how the government and authorities responded, and whether there was a cover-up.

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Sir Brian Langstaff, the inquiry’s chairman, wrote: “People have been failed not once but repeatedly, by the bodies (NHS and other) responsible for the safety of their treatment, and by their governments.

Sir Brian Langstaff at Central Hall Westminster London speaking to the audience following the publication of his report. (Photo: Tracey Croggon/Infected Blood Inquiry/PA Wire)Sir Brian Langstaff at Central Hall Westminster London speaking to the audience following the publication of his report. (Photo: Tracey Croggon/Infected Blood Inquiry/PA Wire)
Sir Brian Langstaff at Central Hall Westminster London speaking to the audience following the publication of his report. (Photo: Tracey Croggon/Infected Blood Inquiry/PA Wire) | PA

“The answer to the question ‘was there a cover-up?’ is that there has been. Not in the sense of a handful of people plotting in an orchestrated conspiracy to mislead, but in a way that was more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications. To save face and to save expense, there has been a hiding of much of the truth.”

He said one of the particularly prominent themes was one of “institutional defensiveness” from the NHS and government, and a lack of transparency and candour.

Failures included clinicians failing to tell people about the risk of infection, and failing to tell people they had been infected, as well as the government continuing to import commercially produced blood products despite concerns being raised.

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A shortage of one UK-produced blood product meant clinicians relied on imports from the US, where people in prisons were paid to be donors, despite being at higher risk of carrying infection.

Victims and campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster, London, after the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry report. Photo: Jeff Moore/PA WireVictims and campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster, London, after the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry report. Photo: Jeff Moore/PA Wire
Victims and campaigners outside Central Hall in Westminster, London, after the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry report. Photo: Jeff Moore/PA Wire

All blood donations have been tested for HIV since October 1985, and for Hepatitis C since September 1991.

There have been no reported and confirmed cases of hepatitis C from any UK blood component since 1997, of HIV since 2002.

Since testing has been introduced, the risk of getting an infection from a blood transfusion or blood products is very low.

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All blood donors are screened at every donation and every donation is tested before it is sent to hospitals.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals states: “Given the time that has elapsed since the last use of infected blood products, most of those who were directly affected have been identified and started appropriate treatment. 

“However, there may be a small number of patients where this is not the case, and particularly where they are living with asymptomatic hepatitis C.”

If you have any concerns about infection or want more details of blood donation safety, visit the Trust’s website or NHS England.

If you were a patient at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals who had a blood transfusion between 1970 to 1991 and have concerns, contact [email protected] or telephone 01142 711663.

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