The "28,000" Infected Lie - How the Government falsely inflated Contaminated Blood Scandal figures

For some years now the Government has pushed a false narrative, the narrative that 28,000+ people were infected with Hepatitis C from Contaminated Blood. Many suspect this grossly inflated figure was invented by the Government / Civil Service to make the scandal appear to be “too expensive to compensate”, this is perhaps true.

As an organisation, Factor 8 has a core principal, unless it’s backed-up by evidence, its worth nothing, as the adage goes, “it’s not what you think you know, but what you can prove”. We have sifted through the sourcing of the “28,000 Infected” figure and have come to the conclusion that it is totally wrong and here’s why.

First of all we need to understand that this figure is not focused upon infected Factor VIII & IX products, for which confirmatory figures and fairly reliable estimates are available. This is often confused.

The 28,000 figure incorporates a false presumption in relation to the transfusion of whole-blood, which is of course a very different matter.

This isn’t about being divisional, or trying to cause hurt, it’s simply about being factual. We’re looking to put the Truth on record, so being factual is important, wherever it may lead us.

So where did this “28,000 Infected” figure come from and why is it wrong?

After tracing back the origins, we believe there are 2 possible scenario’s, outlined below.

Firstly we looked back in the Archives and came across an internal Department of Health whitepaper published on 8th June 1995, this was the time of the first large scale “look-back” exercise by the Government to identify how many people had been infected by contaminated blood and blood-products.

The Whitepaper states:

About 2,000 haemophiliacs are thought to have received infected blood products and 3,000 people have been estimated in the UK to have contracted the virus through infected blood transfusions.

The prevalence of hepatitis C in blood donors has been shown to be approximately 1 in 2,000. This equates to about 28,000 UK citizens.

Notice something? The Department of Health whitepaper states that there are about 28,000 blood donors (not recipients) who have Hepatitis C. Bear in mind this was years after mandatory testing for Hepatitis C had been put in place for blood donors in the UK, effectively eliminating the risk that these blood donors would pass on their infection to recipients of transfused blood all together.

Is it possible that an incompetent Civil Servant tasked with finding the figures at a later date, dug out this Whitepaper and in a sheer moment of stupidity, thought that this reference to donors, in fact meant recipients? Perhaps. Is it a coincidence this figure is also exactly 28,000? Perhaps.

But the story doesn’t end here and this is pure theory. But here’s something that isn’t theory…

In 2015 the Department of Health published an “Impact Assessment” form, on Page 4, the form says:

Over 4,500 people with haemophilia in the UK were infected with hepatitis C through treatment with blood products.

Published scientific studies estimate that more than 28,000 other patients might have been infected with hepatitis C by blood transfusions. Around 1,200 haemophilia patients and 100 other patients were similarly infected with HIV. To date, over 5,500 affected individuals have accessed dedicated financial support through seven payment schemes

Before continuing further, it is interesting to note the Department of Health’s original figures estimated a total of 5,000 people had been infected through blood AND blood-products combined. And as of 2015, 5,500 people had accessed financial subsidence, which would have included widows, children, infected partners and other estate beneficiaries as well as those infected. Interesting.

This impact assessment provides the Department of Health’s source in the footnote for the “28,000” figure (finally, great right!?). No. Before looking at this source in detail, note the use by the Department of the word, StudieS, however only 1 study is sourced.

The study in question is: Soldan, Robinson et al. The contribution of transfusion to HCV infection in England. Epidemiology and Infection 2002

The study was flawed. Much of the reasoning as to why is actually written by the authors of the study within the published paper itself, here are a number of quotes from the authors of the Study:

Page 4 (Discussion): There were, by necessity, many assumptions and extrapolations used, and the results are not therefore expected to be exact.

Page 4 (Discussion): We may have underestimated or overestimated the infections transmitted from 1 January 1980 to 1 September 1991 by using the prevalence of infection at the start of testing without accounting for selective removal of infected donors during the 1980s.

But here’s where things get really interesting, Page 5 of the Study states:

As with estimates for the 1980’s, over 61% of these would be expected to have died by 1995 probably well above this figure considering the greater average age of these recipients.If the average age of transfusion has stayed fairly constant over the years, 60% of these recipients infected during the 1970’s would have been born prior to 1920, i.e. would have been at least 75 years old by 1995.

Yes, that’s right. At least 61% of an already flawed “28,000” figure is comprised of people who were over 75 years old in 1995.

Nowhere in the study referenced by the Department of Health is the figure “28,000” mentioned at all. The number 28,000 is not present anywhere in the study.
— Factor 8

The final flaw in the study that should be accounted for is that the Department of Health has long known that most recipients of transfused blood died within 12 months following the transfusion, due to the primary cause of requiring the transfusion in the first place. This is referenced in this Internal Document from the Department of Health’s ACSVB and also in this 1988 Study by Harvey J Alter.

We repeat. Nowhere in the study is the figure 28,000 even mentioned.

Ultimately, it will now be the job of the Infected Blood Inquiry to determine the true figures of those infected by the contaminated blood scandal (eg when risks were known and/or viral removal measures available but not used), which remain unknown. But if one thing’s for sure, that figure is not 28,000.

Why do the Department of Health promote this figure? Who stands to benefit from relying on this flawed data? We each must draw our own conclusions and remember that any propagation of such inaccurate information does a great disservice to all who have been infected by either blood or blood products during the contaminated blood scandal.

  • By Jason Evans