'Blood compensation comes too late for my husband'

Perry and Heather Evans
[Heather Evans]

Perry Evans was one of the first victims to give evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry. He died just five weeks ago and never saw the damning report into the scandal that was published on Monday.

His wife, Heather Evans, sat next to a picture of Perry as she listened to Sir Brian Langstaff read the key points from his 2,575 pages of findings.

She said it was "overwhelming" to see the culmination of years of campaigning without Perry. "My feeling at the start of the day was just so gutted that Perry was missing it," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The government is due to announce a "comprehensive" compensation scheme for victims on Tuesday.

A public inquiry found authorities had exposed victims to unacceptable risks and covered up the NHS's biggest treatment disaster.

Some 30,000 people were infected and Perry is one of around 3,000 who have died so far.

Sir Brian shared Perry's story as he delivered his findings on Monday. An audible gasp rippled through the audience when he told them Perry had died - and so recently.

"That sigh went across the room," said Heather. Because of the "love and solidarity" between infected blood campaigners.

Heather said she and other campaigners feel "grateful" the report has been published. But she is hesitant to say the battle is over.

"I still don't trust that anything will happen," she said as she waited for the government to announce the compensation scheme. "Why was this not announced a year ago?"

She is not the only one asking this question.

While some campaigners have praised the prime minister for his apology, others have criticised the government for waiting for the full report before setting up a full compensation scheme.

Heather says the government has learned nothing in the full report it did not already know a year ago. "And in that year, so many people have died. Including Perry."

'I'm so proud he saw our kids to adulthood'

Perry Evans met Heather in 1987, just two years after he was diagnosed with HIV. He contracted the illness after he was given infected blood during treatment for haemophilia.

"We were told he had two or three years to live," said Heather. "We were married for nearly 36 years."

The couple were also told they would never have children, but they have a son, Isaac, now 22, and a daughter, Cerian, now 19.

"I’m so proud that he saw our kids into adulthood and he saw our daughter get into theatre school," she said. "He would want them to thrive and fly and absolutely fly. That’s his legacy.

"But there were huge difficulties along the way, huge health crises. And that’s part of the shock that he has gone, because so many things he rose above – time after time after time. So we are still shocked that he’s gone."

Evans family
The Evans family had far more time with Perry than they expected [Heather Evans]

In 2022, an independent report by Sir Robert Francis recommended compensation for victims irrespective of the findings of the public inquiry.

The UK government said at the time that it accepted the moral case for compensation and made payments of £100,000 to 4,000 people who had been infected.

Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, a long-time campaigner on the scandal, said the government's failure to provide compensation payments to victims following an interim report by Sir Brian "added another layer of hurt".

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for people to be prosecuted for their role in the scandal.

The former health secretary told the BBC corporate manslaughter charges should be brought, and backed Sir Brian's calls for civil servants to be subject to a "duty of candour" law, which would force them to "tell the truth at the first time of asking".

Mr Burnham said this is the "only way to break the cycle" that has led to successive public scandals.