Government response ‘shows contempt’ for NHS blood scandal victims


People with haemophilia who were given contaminated blood by the NHS say they are “appalled and disgusted” by the government’s response to an independent inquiry into the scandal.
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. Nearly 2,000 of them have died and many more are terminally ill.
An independent public inquiry, led by Lord Archer of Sandwell, reported in February and described the scandal as a “horrific human tragedy”.
Among its recommendations, it called for the government to set up a more generous compensation scheme.
Responding to the inquiry, health minister Dawn Primarolo expressed “the greatest sympathy” for those affected, but said the government would not increase compensation payments for people infected with hepatitis C, although it would “review” the compensation scheme in 2014.
She said people infected with HIV would see their annual compensation doubled to £12,800.
But Taintedblood, a campaign group set up by victims of the scandal and their relatives, said they were “appalled and disgusted” with the response and were taking legal advice.
They said the government had “failed to give any real consideration to the urgent needs of those infected and affected by hepatitis C” and described the increased payments to those with HIV as “paltry”.
Primarolo said the government would also increase core funding for the Haemophilia Society to £100,000 a year for the next five years. Government funding for the charity had been gradually cut over several years from £100,000 a year, and next year was due to be removed completely.
Despite the announcement, Chris James, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, accused the government of trying to “ignore” or “water down” Lord Archer’s recommendations with a series of “half-measures”, and of showing “contempt” for the victims.
He said he had written to the leaders of the three main political parties to “help us find a way out of this morass”, as the Department of Health was “incapable of the simple human compassion and understanding required”.
So far, more than £45 million has been paid out in compensation to about 600 people (including relatives of those who have died) who contracted HIV through infected blood. And £97 million has been paid to more than 4,000 people who contracted hepatitis C.
James also warned that people with haemophilia were now facing another threat, following the disclosure in May that 802 people had been given blood from donors who subsequently died of variant CJD.