Campaigners hope a new private members’ bill will finally force the government to provide fair compensation for the victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal.
Lord [Alf] Morris’s contaminated blood (support for infected and bereaved persons) bill would implement all the recommendations of an independent public inquiry into what was described by one peer as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.
Nearly 5,000 people with haemophilia were exposed to hepatitis C, and more than 1,200 were also infected with HIV, following treatment with contaminated NHS blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. More than 2,000 of them have since died and many more are terminally ill.
The inquiry was led by Lord Archer of Sandwell and among its recommendations it called for the government to set up a more generous compensation scheme.
Lord Morris’s bill, which would apply across England and Wales, would increase compensation for those infected and their widows, dependants and carers, and set up a scheme to provide them with free prescriptions, therapy and counselling.
It would also review the support available to those who were infected, and set up a committee to advise on the treatment of people with haemophilia.
TaintedBlood, a campaign group set up by victims and their relatives, said it was “delighted” with the new bill, which it hoped would “mark a turning point” in the “campaign for truth and justice”.
The Haemophilia Society also welcomed the bill and said the government’s response to the inquiry’s findings had been “insulting and shameful”.
Responding to the inquiry in May, health minister Dawn Primarolo said the government would not increase compensation payments for people infected with hepatitis C, although it would “review” the compensation scheme in 2014, while people infected with HIV would see their annual compensation doubled to £12,800.
Chris James, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said the new bill would “turn the spotlight of parliamentary scrutiny on the disgraceful way successive governments have failed our members”.
Lord Archer said the government’s response to his report had seemed “lethargic” and he hoped the new bill would “stimulate them into action”.
Dr Norman Jones, who sat on the Archer inquiry panel, said nothing had been done to help many of the widows of people who died, and it was “not surprising that a deep sense of grievance persists in the haemophilia community”.
19 November 2009