Government’s blood scandal response is a ‘running sore’


A succession of peers have attacked the government for failing to implement the recommendations of an inquiry into the NHS contaminated blood scandal.

They were speaking during the second reading of a private members’ bill introduced in the Lords by the former disabled people’s minister, Lord [Alf] Morris.

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 have died, with many more terminally ill.

Lord Morris’s contaminated blood (support for infected and bereaved persons) bill would implement all of the recommendations of an independent public inquiry into the scandal, led by Lord Archer of Sandwell.

The bill would increase compensation; improve medical care and review the support available for those infected; and set up a new committee to advise on treatment.

Lord Morris said there was “anguish”, “despair” and “anger” among people with haemophilia at the government’s treatment of the inquiry report, while the bill would produce “priceless benefits in enabling haemophilia patients to live fuller and more fulfilling lives”.

The government has refused to increase compensation payments for those infected with hepatitis C, although it will “review” the compensation scheme in 2014, while annual compensation for people infected with HIV will double to £12,800.

Lord Archer said the government’s response to his inquiry did “not reverberate with a sense of urgency” and people with haemophilia believe “their concerns pass unnoticed and that their voices are not listened to”.

Among a string of peers who criticised the government’s response to the inquiry, the disabled peer Baroness Masham, a vice-president of the Haemophilia Society, said the treatment of those infected was “a running sore that will not heal until there is a satisfactory solution”.

Baroness Thornton, responding for the government, said it was “fully committed” to supporting those affected by the “appalling tragedy”.

The Department of Health meets twice a year with a partnership of people with haemophilia and professionals, and prescription charges for patients with long-term conditions in England were being phased out, she said.

Other services, such as counselling and physiotherapy, were already available under the NHS.

She added: “We have put our money where our mouth is. I also recognise that this is never enough.”

But she claimed many of the bill’s provisions were “either already in place, or are being put in place”, so there was “no need” for legislation.

14 December 2009

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