The English HCV lookback programme has identified some individuals with transfusion-transmitted HCV infection. The path from the collection of donations from HCV-infected donors to the identification of infected recipients was constructed. The probability of different outcomes at each branch was derived from data collected during this programme. This path of probabilities was then used to produce a complete estimate of the number of recipients infected by blood transfusions (dead and alive at the end of 1995) by re-entry of blood components that fell out of the lookback at various steps prior to recipient testing, and entry of components from HCV-infected donations that were never identified for lookback. Less than 14 000 recipients were estimated to have been infected with HCV during the decade prior to the start of donation testing. Over 60% of these were expected to have died by the end of 1995. Transfusion has infected a large group of individuals. However, this group constitutes a very small, and declining, proportion of all HCV infections in the population.