An inquiry into the U.K.’s decades-long contaminated blood scandal has found evidence of a "chilling” cover-up by the British establishment, in a watershed moment that will finally trigger billions in compensation for the worst treatment disaster in the history of the revered National Health Service.

"The scale of what happened is horrifying,” Brian Langstaff, chairman of the official Infected Blood Inquiry, said in a report published on Monday that blamed systemic, ethical and both individual and collective failures for a "calamity.”

The cover-up was "chilling in its implications,” he said. "To save face and to save expense, there has been a hiding of much of the truth.”