AT least £100,000 should be paid "without delay" to all infected blood victims and bereaved partners across the UK.

Sir Brian Langstaff, who is chairing the inquiry into the NHS scandal, made the recommendation in an interim report published today. 

He said the evidence so far revealed that patients had suffered "profound physical and mental suffering" as a result of the scandal. 

Around 3,000 people in Scotland were infected with hepatitis C as a result of contaminated blood and blood products used on the NHS during the 1970s and 1980s, up to 1991, with around 80 also infected with HIV in the early 1980s.

In a letter to Paymaster General Michael Ellis accompanying the report, Sir Brian said interim payments should be paid "without delay, to all those infected and all bereaved partners currently registered on UK infected blood support schemes, and those who register between now and the inception of any future scheme".

The amount paid "should be no less than £100,000, as recommended by Sir Robert Francis QC", added Sir Brian.

It comes after a report on the interim payments by Sir Robert, who studied options for a framework for compensation for victims of the infected blood tragedy, was published in June.

The inquiry was established to examine how thousands of patients in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

At the time, patients with haemophilia and other blood disorders were being given a clotting treatment imported from the US where it was made from the pooled blood plasma of thousands of paid donors, including some in high-risk groups, such as prisoners.

About 2,400 people died in what has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors, who represents families and those affected by the scandal said the report was a "welcome development" but compensation had been "due for decades".

"These immediate interim payments for some of the most vulnerable will, at last, provide some financial compensation that many of those suffering have been due for decades," he said.

"Whilst coming too late for the thousands who have tragically passed away over the intervening years since they were infected, it is a welcome development for some of those still living with the dreadful repercussions of this avoidable treatment failure.

"We look forward to the day when all victims of this scandal are properly compensated for their suffering and for those whose decisions led to the ruining of countless innocent lives being held to account."

Kate Burt from The Haemophilia Society said: "Today's recommendations leave no room for doubt: many of those infected or bereaved are ill and dying and need compensation now."

The UK Government said it is urgently considering the recommendations, but is not compelled to adhere to them. 

A spokesman said: "We recognise how important this will be for people infected and affected across the UK, and can confirm that the Government will consider Sir Brian's report and the recommendations of Sir Robert Francis QC with the utmost urgency, and will respond as soon as possible."

Currently, victims and families get an annual financial support payment but have not been compensated for loss of earnings, care costs and other lifetime losses.

Sir Brian apologised to those who would not currently be eligible for compensation under the current terms of the recommendations.

These include parents whose children died as a result of tainted blood infusions, or children who lost their parents. 

He said: "I know that this will be disappointing for some of you who may fall into neither category and I apologise for that.

"I ask those who are disappointed to remember that this is not the end of the inquiry's work, and the question of compensation, and its scope is not resolved in this short report on interim payments."

Earlier this week the inquiry heard that Scotland's inaugural First Minister, Donald Dewar, had expressed concerns that a compensation scheme for people who contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated blood could result in an "open cheque book".

At the time, in 1999, Scottish ministers were said to have opposed providing payouts because the NHS had not been found to be negligent or at fault.

HIV victims had begun receiving compensation in 1988, but Hepatitis C victims did not become eligible for payouts until 2004. 

Former Scottish health minister, Malcolm Chisholm, told the inquiry on Thursday that he had been warned by his UK Government counterpart, Alan Milburn, in 2002 that it would be a "grave mistake" to begin authorising payouts to Hepatits C victims. 

Mr Chisholm - who had wanted to make payments to those worst affected - said he had been seeking clarity on whether the matter was devolved when emails sent on behalf of Mr Milburn cautioned that it would put the UK "on a slippery slope to payments running into the millions".