UK

ITV says yes to infected blood scandal drama after success of Post Office series

Campaigners have previously pushed for the infected blood scandal to receive the same attention as the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

Toby Jones starred in ITV’s Mr Bates Vs The Post Office
Toby Jones Toby Jones starred in ITV’s Mr Bates Vs The Post Office (Suzan Moore/PA)

ITV has given the go-ahead to a drama about the infected blood scandal following the success of the channel’s series about Post Office workers fighting for justice.

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

Since the airing, former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells promised to hand back her CBE following an explosion in signatories on an online petition and the Government promised to speed-up compensation.

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

Pier Wilkie, Otto Bathurst and Peter Moffat pose with Ben Whishaw, centre, and presenter Andrew Garfield, far left, after Criminal Justice wins the award for Bafta drama serial award
The British Academy Television Awards – Press Room – London Pier Wilkie, Otto Bathurst and Peter Moffat pose with Ben Whishaw, centre, and presenter Andrew Garfield, far left, after Criminal Justice wins the award for Bafta drama serial award (Ian West/PA)

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

Moffat, also known for BBC shows Silk and Undercover, and Showtime series, Your Honour, 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”.

An actor, whose family were hit by the issue, previously was working on a TV series, which is based around the boys who contracted hepatitis at Treloar’s College, a school for disabled children with a facility on site for haemophiliacs.

The Crown star Seb Carrington, who said he has haemophilia and so did his brother James, called the new ITV drama a “bittersweet moment for me” as he wants the story told.

He told the PA news agency that he feels he would be “doing a disservice to all the victims, who’ve given me their time to share their stories with me, and to my brother” – who contracted hepatitis through the scandal in the 1980s but later died in a car accident – if he did not finish the drama.

Carrington added that production companies were considering his idea but “I think they’re going to have to withdraw at this point… which is a blow of course, for me”.