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Dozens of blood scandal victims have died in past year awaiting payout – charity

Campaigners have called on the Government to compensate people affected by the infected blood scandal (PA)
Campaigners have called on the Government to compensate people affected by the infected blood scandal (PA)

Almost 100 victims of the infected blood scandal have died in the year since the final recommendations were made on compensation, a charity has said.

The Infected Blood Inquiry, which is due to publish its final report in May, made its final recommendations on compensation for victims and their loved ones in April 2023.

Inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff said at the time that he “could not in conscience add to the decades-long delays” victims had already faced.

Infected Blood inquiry
Infected blood campaigners have implored ministers to recognise their suffering by setting up a full compensation scheme (PA)

Some people have already received interim payments of £100,000, but Sir Brian said that a number have gone “unrecognised” – including parents who lost children and children orphaned when their parents died – as he called for the interim scheme to be extended.

He said that “no time must be wasted in delivering redress” as he recommended that a compensation scheme should be set up before the final report of the inquiry, and run by an arm’s-length body independent of Government.

The Government has previously been accused of dragging its feet over compensation and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was heckled when he appeared before the inquiry last year as he vowed to pay compensation “as swiftly as possible”.

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, in what has been dubbed the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Richard Angell, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, described April 5 as “another grim anniversary for those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal”.

He added: “Precisely one year ago, the inquiry’s chair Sir Brian Langstaff published his second interim report stating clearly that parents and children who suffered bereavements as a result of the scandal should receive £100,000 in interim compensation.

“He did this to try and alleviate immediate suffering, saying that delaying recommendations on compensation until the final report would cause further harm to people who had already been failed by government.

“Sir Brian also clearly recommended that the arm’s-length body that will deliver the compensation scheme should be set up and running by the end of 2023.

“Shamefully, this hasn’t happened and government continues to fail this group and prolong their suffering. While in the last year almost 100 more victims of the scandal have died.

“Interim payments have already been made to those infected and bereaved partners, but not parents or children – despite the devastating impact on them. Including parents who unknowingly infected their children with contaminated blood products and children who were orphaned by the scandal.

“These people have been waiting half a century for justice and government mustn’t drag its feet any longer.

“Sir Brian has been crystal clear on his recommendations around compensation and these must be immediately acted on when the final report is published on May 20. Victims have already suffered for far, far too long.”

Rachel Halford, chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, also called for the Government to “immediately establish a full compensation scheme”.

She added that, despite the inquiry’s recommendations being laid out a year ago, the Government has “repeatedly refused” to act on them “and still insists that it is waiting for the final report before laying out its plans”.

“While the Government delays, people are dying and uncertainty about the future is actively harming infected blood survivors and their families; people whose lives have already been devastated by infected blood,” Ms Halford said.

“The Government must stop dragging its feet and immediately establish a full compensation scheme, and extend compensation to everyone affected, including people given hepatitis B, people infected through transfusions after 1991, and every parent who watched their child die as a result of this horrific scandal.”

Kate Burt, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: “Our community has watched with increasing anger, disbelief and cynicism as the Government blatantly tries to pass the buck on compensation.

“A year after the Infected Blood Inquiry recommended that compensation should be paid, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s refusal to accept responsibility on this issue is repugnant and cruel.

“In just a few weeks, the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report will reveal the failings within government which contributed to the contaminated blood scandal four decades ago. It is sad to see that the damage inflicted by government continues to the present day.”

A Government spokesperson said: “This was an appalling tragedy, and our thoughts remain with all those impacted.

“We are clear that justice needs to be delivered for the victims and have already accepted the moral case for compensation.

“This covers a set of extremely complex issues, and it is right we fully consider the needs of the community and the far-reaching impact that this scandal has had on their lives.

“The Government will provide an update to Parliament on next steps through an oral statement within 25 sitting days of the inquiry’s final report being published.”

Earlier this year concerns were raised about the expert appointed to advise the Government on compensation.

Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery was appointed as chairman of a group of clinical, legal and social care experts to give “technical advice on compensation”.

But campaigners questioned Sir Jonathan’s role at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where he has been chairman since 2019, and his former membership of Bayer’s bioethics council.

A Government spokesperson said: “Sir Jonathan is an experienced healthcare law scholar who has played a leading role in UK public bioethics.

“Last year he ceased to be a member of the Bayer bioethics council, which is an independent advisory body that is distinct from the operational business of Bayer.”