A public inquiry into "the worst treatment scandal in the history of the NHS" is to start taking evidence this week (w/c 29 April 2019).
First announced in July 2017, the public inquiry will examine evidence from around 2,500 people who have either been infected with, or affected by, contaminated blood products.
During the 70s and 80s, around 4800 people with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis C or HIV due to contaminated blood products such as Factor VIII and IX. Over 2,000 of those individuals are thought to have died and thousands more may have been exposed after receiving blood transfusions.
The inquiry into the tragedy is expected to last more than two years and will be led by retired judge, Sir Brian Langstaff.
Victims and relatives of those infected are looking for answers as to why safety warnings were ignored, why documents and patient records appear to have been lost or destroyed and why plans to make the UK self-sufficient in blood products were not followed through.
In the lead up to the public inquiry, the government announced it will increase financial support for those in England affected by the scandal, from £46m to £75m.
Prime Minister Theresa May said:
"The contaminated blood scandal was a tragedy that should never have happened and has caused unimaginable pain and hurt for victims and their families for decades.
"I know this will be a difficult time for victims and their families - but today will begin a journey which will be dedicated to getting to the truth of what happened and in delivering justice to everyone involved."
The government previously created a compensation scheme for those who were victims of the blood scandal however it is clear that for many of those effected this enquiry is not about compensation but about getting answers to how they were allowed to be injured in such an awful way.
Inquiries form the backbone to identifying a full picture of what happened, what went wrong and how it was allowed to go wrong. For many of those effected this will be their first opportunity to fully understand their own history as many victims have reported problems in accessing their own medical records or obtaining answers to even the most basic of questions.
For anyone who has suffered an injury as a result of medical decisions or treatment understanding what happened and why it happened can be the most important element of any investigation and I hope that the enquiry goes sufficiently far in its investigations to allow the victims of this horrific episode that chance to understand why it happened to them.
Hannah Bottomley is a clinical negligence solicitor with Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about clinical negligence issues and wish to speak with Hannah or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888.