AFTER decades of campaigning, the decision to hold a public inquiry into what has been dubbed the biggest treatment disaster in the history of the NHS was welcomed by the victims who were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood.

Last week it was a very different story as the publication of the final report was met with anger and accusations of a "whitewash".

The chair of the inquiry Lord Penrose, apportioned no blame for the tragedy and did not conclude that the infection of nearly 3,000 people in Scotland with HIV and hepatitis C from blood transfusions and products used to treat bleeding disorders could have been prevented.

But what the final report of the inquiry - which runs to five volumes - does document is a series of shocking revelations about the events which led to the disaster. The scale of the suffering is also laid bare with the harrowing stories detailed in the report - such as a mother who unwittingly infected her young son with HIV believing she was giving him the best treatment for haemophilia.

While the Penrose Inquiry's final conclusions may not have provided the answers which victims were seeking, it does provide an opportunity for their suffering to be recognised at long last. Campaigners want a scheme set up to help Scottish victims - not only to compensate for the financial losses suffered through ill-health, but to provide much needed support such as counselling for those infected by contaminated blood.

There have been encouraging signs - both the UK and Scottish Government swiftly issued apologies to patients and their families after the publication of the report and pledged a review of the financial support which they have been offered. Scottish health secretary Shona Robison told MSPs it was "one of the greatest healthcare-related tragedies in this country" and spoke of the need to improve financial support for those affected and resolve this issue as soon as possible.

With a UK election looming and the Scottish Parliament elections next year, it is vital the issue does not fall by the political wayside and once again be left to drag on for years. Too many victims have already died while waiting for some kind of justice. It is time to make amends now.