UK

ITV drama about infected blood scandal ‘could be harrowing story’

ITV has given the go-ahead to a drama after the success of the channel’s series about Post Office workers.

Blood sample (Simon Dawson/PA)

A man affected by the infected blood scandal has said a forthcoming ITV drama will tell a “very compelling and harrowing story” if it portrays the case “faithfully”.

Richard Warwick, 59, received blood products to treat his haemophilia, a clotting condition, when he attended Treloar’s school for disabled children in Hampshire.

He later discovered he was infected as a child with hepatitis B and had contracted HIV.

ITV announced on Thursday that it had given the go-ahead to a drama about the infected blood scandal, after the success of the channel’s series about Post Office workers fighting for justice.

Peter Moffat – who won two Baftas for BBC series Criminal Justice and also created the screenplay for upcoming Netflix film Scoop, about the Duke of York’s disastrous Newsnight interview – will write the series.

Mr Warwick, a member of the Tainted Blood campaign group, told the PA news agency that he welcomed the commission but wants the creators to remain faithful to the facts and stories.

“It’s very welcome as long as they stick to the facts and tell it how it is, because one of our main concerns is that it doesn’t faithfully convey the desperation and the suffering victims have had to endure over many decades,” he said.

“And if they do, it will tell a very compelling and harrowing story of what we’ve had to endure for so long.”

He said he has the “greatest confidence” in Moffat, having been assured that the production and writers will be consulting those affected throughout the process to ensure the facts on dates and timelines are correctly portrayed.

The series comes after Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which began airing in the new year and stars Toby Jones, pushed what has been called the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history up the news agenda for weeks.

Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells has since promised to hand back her CBE after a huge increase in signatories on an online petition, and the Government promised to speed up compensation.

Mr Warwick, from Scarborough, said he watched the Post Office series multiple times as he found it “so compelling” and hopes the infected blood scandal dramatisation has the same impact.

He said: “There was a Post Office on just about every high street so that’s very much in the psyche of the British public.

“Contaminated blood isn’t a particularly pleasant topic to be talking about and I think you could possibly turn a lot of people off, which is why it has to be so compelling, that people are drawn in and they can connect with the characters.

“I think that’s what will tip us over the edge and make people sit up and take notice and realise just how big of a scandal this has been.”

Mr Warwick discovered he had contracted HIV in 1988, and a year later his wife became pregnant.

They were advised not to continue with the pregnancy due to the risk the child could be infected.

Campaigners have previously pushed for the infected blood scandal, in which thousands died in what is widely recognised as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS, to receive the same attention as the Post Office events.

Moffat said: “It’s been a great privilege to meet those infected and affected and to learn about what they have been through.

“I’m ashamed to say that when I started researching this story I knew next to nothing about it. I’m even more ashamed that this ignorance is shared by nearly everyone I mention it to.

“The victims of this scandal have been let down again and again by the state – I hope in some small way this drama can help their voices be heard.”

The drama “focuses on how haemophiliacs and those with other blood disorders were contaminated with tainted blood infecting them with HIV and Hepatitis C” during the 1970s and 1980s, the broadcaster said.

The series will also look at what doctors, politicians and pharmaceutical companies knew about the risk and the work done by victims and their families to bring justice.

ITV’s head of drama Polly Hill said: “Peter’s scripts are brilliant and do justice to this important story, while bringing it to screen with real clarity and compassion.”

Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors, which represents 1,500 victims and their families, welcomed the news.

“We have long been approached by documentary-makers but believe this particular series will refocus public attention on the tragedy of the infected blood scandal,” he added.

“It will expose much of what our clients have endured, not only emotionally and health-wise, but also in terms of shoddy treatment by government, in their decades-long battle for justice during which too many lives have unnecessarily been lost.

“Viewers won’t fail to be moved by this compelling story of the worst treatment scandal in NHS history. Sadly, it remains a devastating reality for many.

“We live in hope that, unlike the Post Office victims, it won’t take a TV drama to air before justice and compensation is secured for our clients and the whole infected blood community.”

He added that “all eyes” will be on the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report in May.

The inquiry has already made its final recommendations for compensation for victims and their loved ones.

The Government has previously been accused of dragging its feet on the issue.

When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared before the inquiry last year, he vowed to pay compensation “as swiftly as possible”.