Sunday, 14 April, 2024
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Swifter justice urged in NHS infected blood scandal

British campaigners have warned the country’s government that it will be “on the wrong side of history” if it rejects a new compensation scheme for NHS infected blood scandal victims, thousands of whom died after being treated with contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Chairman of the Haemophilia Society, Clive Smith, told BBC News that campaigners have received only “warm words” while the government worked “at a snail’s pace” to compensate victims of the scandal.

“This has never been about politics. This has always been about justice and doing the right thing, and no government should hold out on this.

“They have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do this, and Rishi Sunak and the Tory Party, I’m afraid, will be on the wrong side of history and future because it need not have come to this.”

Downing Street said it was considering options and would clarify its compensation plans in the coming weeks.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have accepted the moral case for compensation and acknowledge justice needs to be delivered for victims.

“This was an appalling tragedy. We certainly understand the strength of feeling.”

Up to 30 000 Britons were given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 80s, leading to the deaths of more than 3 000 people after they contracted HIV or hepatitis C.

The government has said there is a “moral case for compensating victims” of the scandal, and has made the first interim payments of £100 000 each to 4 000 surviving victims and bereaved partners.

Under the initial scheme only victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment.

The government had said it wanted to wait for the infected blood inquiry to conclude before setting up a full scheme.

‘Long overdue’

Earlier this year, Sir Brian Langstaff, who is chairing the inquiry, called for a full compensation scheme to be established immediately. He also said it should be widened to include orphaned children and parents who lost children.

His inquiry had been due to publish a final report in November, but this has been pushed back to March 2024.

In an attempt to speed up efforts to compensate victims, Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson – who leads the All-Party Parliamentary group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood – has put forward an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

The amendment forces the government to create a new body to distribute compensation for the scheme within three months of the Bill becoming law.

Rebel Tory MPs backed the amendment, delivering Rishi Sunak his first defeat as prime minister. The legislation now needs to be approved by the House of Lords before becoming law.

Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors, which represents some 1 500 victims and their families, added: “The government has finally been forced to agree to act – both to deliver on establishing a body to oversee proper compensation for victims and their families and to respond swiftly to the much-anticipated final report due from Sir Brian Langstaff’s inquiry next March.

“On the face of it the government is now committed to meeting its long-overdue responsibilities.”

 

BBC News article – Infected Blood Scandal: PM risks ending on ‘wrong side of history’ (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

UK’s NHS could cough up billions in infected blood scandal payments

 

Inquiry recommends urgent compensation for infected blood victims as death toll rises

 

Inquiry recommends urgent compensation for infected blood victims as death toll rises

 

 

 

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