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Infected blood inquiry chair 'sorry' as final report on scandal delayed again

The man running the inquiry into the infected blood scandal has apologised after pushing back the publication of the inquiry's final report by two months.

Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff, who initially moved it back from last autumn to March, has now delayed it further - until May.

Mr Langstaff said on Wednesday: "I am sorry to tell you that the report will be published later than March. That is not what I had intended."

Thousands of people died as patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products imported from the US during the 1970s and 1980s.

It is widely recognised as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS and, decades later, some bereaved families are still waiting for compensation.

Mr Langstaff said he was "acutely aware of the need for the report to be available as soon as possible".

He realised more time was needed when he reviewed publication plans, he said, adding that his principal recommendation, which was published in April last year, was still that a compensation scheme should be "set up with urgency".

He said: "No one should be in any doubt about the serious nature of the failings over more than six decades that have led to catastrophic loss of life and compounded suffering."

The final report will be published on 20 May 2024 and will "set out and explain the many failings at systemic, collective and individual levels over more than six decades", the inquiry team said.

Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors, which acts for 1,500 victims and families impacted by the infected blood scandal, said ministers must act before May.

Admitting that completing the report is a "mammoth exercise", he urged the government to "do the right thing and progress this now, not hide behind the new timetable".

Victims, he said "continue to die without proper recognition of their suffering and the families of victims have been treated so unfairly".

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"As victims of the Post Office have discovered, all kinds of bureaucracy and red tape can hinder the effective implementation of government compensation schemes," he said, adding that ministers "have a moral duty to act now and that all eyes are upon them."

Rachel Halford, chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, called the delay "extremely disappointing", but added ministers had "repeatedly refused to act on the inquiry's recommendations".

Jason Evans, director of the campaign group Factor 8, added that for six years "victims and families have patiently followed every twist and turn of the inquiry" and know the government "has everything it needs to act on compensation now".