Contaminated blood announcement falls short of campaigners' expectations

A ministerial statement has promised ‘parity’ in compensation for contaminated blood victims across the UK but stops short of what campaigners were hoping for.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 4:48 pm

The statement on Thursday (March 25) confirmed changes to compensation for victims and their families but stopped short of claiming liability for the scandal.

Campaigners, victims and families had hoped that the government would admit liability for ‘the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history’ this week but the written statement instead outlines long-awaited changes to compensation.

This will come as a disappointment to some who have been seeking an admission of liability from the government for decades - many have died in the process.

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Russell Carbery with his wife Anne and children Paula and Stuart.

This followed a report by The Times which claimed the government would admit liability in its statement this week.

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Contaminated blood victims and families could finally get compensation

Earlier this week, Wigan councillor Paula Wakefield who lost her father Russell Carbery when he was aged 39 due to contaminated blood, said: “This will be the first time ever that the government has admitted any kind of liability for the scandal.

“Up until this point they have always said that nothing could have been done to prevent it and I believe the inquiry has proven that to be incorrect.

Paula Wakefield and her daughter, Holly.

“This is what we knew all along.”

Russell had haemophilia and a treatment intended to save his life instead caused him to contract HIV in the early 1980s and then hepatitis B and C.

Paula said that compensation could ‘give closure’ to victims and their families.

Clive Smith, chairman of The Haemophilia Society, said: “The statement marks a break-through in the campaign for truth and justice for victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

“Victims of the contaminated blood scandal in the UK have been waiting almost 40 years for the government to acknowledge liability and offer compensation for the devastation and loss that this NHS treatment disaster caused. This is the closest any government has come to that admission.

“The UK’s financial support system for victims of contaminated blood and their bereaved partners was deeply flawed, divisive and unfair.

“We welcome today’s announcement which means all UK victims who were infected as a result of NHS treatment will receive broadly the same support regardless of where they were infected.”

The Haemophilia Society expressed ‘disappointment’ that the compensation excludes bereaved parents and children and has also called for ‘more funding for specialist psychological support for victims and families’.

Jason Evans, campaigner and founder of Factor 8, said ‘many families appear to remain entirely excluded’ in the framework.

“It is important to understand that existing support is not compensation,” he said.

“Although the Minister's statement talks of support for those "affected" and "families", this remains limited in scope to those infected who are still alive and widows.

“We have heard from many already thoroughly distressed members that their upset has been compounded.”

Mr Evans urged the government to ‘urgently address the disparity’.

Paula Wakefield welcomed the timing of the announcement which came before Parliament’s Easter recess.

However, Dame Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North, called the written statement ‘grossly insensitive’.

“A written ministerial statement appeared on the last day before the Easter recess and, crucially, after the deadline to secure an urgent question,” she said.

“This leaves no opportunity for members’ questioning of a minister in the House for at least two weeks.

“The failure to have an oral ministerial statement in the House today, allowing members to ask questions is grossly insensitive to people who have suffered so much, for so long…”

Following the announcement, annual payments will increase for bereaved partners of contaminated blood victims and lump sum bereavement payments will automatically total £10,000.

The total paid to those who contracted Hepatitis C will increase to £50,000 (previously £20,000).

Those who contracted HIV will automatically receive £80.5k.

Increased payments will be backdated to April 2019 and the changes aim to bring parity to victims’ compensation in all four UK nations.

Beneficiaries can now receive funding for counselling from the scheme without approval from a GP or accessing waiting lists.

Penny Mordaunt announced that an independent review would take place to look at options for a compensation framework.

More information about the proposed changes to compensation for UK victims of the contaminated blood scandal can be found at this website.

What is the contaminated blood or infected blood scandal?

Patients were infected in the 1970s and 1980s after being given blood for conditions such as haemophilia, which affects how blood clots and can lead to prolonged bleeding after injury.

It is thought that the blood products contained a clotting agent known as Factor VIII which had been imported from the US and was later found to be contaminated with HIV and hepatitis viruses.

The Infected Blood Inquiry was established in 2018 following an announcement by then Prime Minister Teresa May in 2017.

It is a ‘statutory inquiry’ which means witnesses can be compelled to attend and produce documents and could face criminal sanctions if they do not.

Other countries affected by the scandal, including the US and Ireland, have paid compensation to victims but this has not happened to date across the UK.