The head of the health service in England has apologised to victims of the infected blood scandal on behalf of the NHS in England, saying that people “put their trust in the care they got from the NHS over many years, and they were badly let down”.

NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard offered her “deepest and heartfelt apologies for the role the NHS played in the suffering and the loss of all those infected and affected”.

It comes as the Infected Blood Inquiry published its final report into the “calamity”, highlighting a “catalogue of failures” across the health service, medical profession and successive governments.

Tens of thousands of people across the UK were infected with deadly viruses when they received contaminated blood transfusions and blood products as part of their NHS treatment.

More than 3,000 have since died.

In a statement Ms Pritchard said: “Earlier today, the Infected Blood Inquiry published its final report.

“The Prime Minister has subsequently issued an apology on behalf of successive Governments and the entire British state.

“I want to do the same on behalf of the NHS in England now, and over previous decades.

“Today’s report brings to an end a long fight for answers and understanding that those people who were infected and their families, should never have had to face.

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“We owe it to all those affected by this scandal, and to the thorough work of the Inquiry team and those who have contributed, to take the necessary time now to fully understand the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

“However, what is already very clear is that tens of thousands of people put their trust in the care they got from the NHS over many years, and they were badly let down.

“I therefore offer my deepest and heartfelt apologies for the role the NHS played in the suffering and the loss of all those infected and affected.

“In particular, I want to say sorry not just for the actions which led to life-altering and life-limiting illness, but also for the failures to clearly communicate, investigate and mitigate risks to patients from transfusions and treatments; for a collective lack of openness and willingness to listen, that denied patients and families the answers and support they needed; and for the stigma that many experienced in the health service when they most needed support.

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“I also want to recognise the pain that some of our staff will have experienced when it became clear that the blood products many of them used in good faith may have harmed people they cared for.

“I know that the apologies I can offer now do not begin to do justice to the scale of personal tragedy set out in this report, but we are committed to demonstrating this in our actions as we respond to its recommendations.”

She said the NHS would work with the Department of Health and Social Care to establish a psychological support service for people affected by the scandal.

It comes as leading doctors from the British Medical Association (BMA) said that the publication of the report marks a “day of shame” for the health service.

Professor Philip Banfield, BMA chairman of council, said: “This is a day to welcome the much overdue transparency and the need to not hide truth from patients, but it is also a day of shame for the NHS, because it has failed to do what it should – to help, not harm, people.

“There is no doubt that thousands of patients were failed, and families put through unimaginable distress, and for that, all those involved need to apologise.

“Simply put, this should never have happened, but when it did, those involved should have been unequivocally candid in their response.

“This is a lengthy, thorough and hugely important report that we will now have to consider in detail and reflect on the implications for the medical profession and doctor-patient relationship.

“Ultimately, all parties must take into account the recommendations to ensure nothing as tragic can happen in our health service ever again, at a point when we are still facing the same poor practice and secrecy when concerns are raised about patient safety.”