There is “growing anger” among people with haemophilia at the government’s failure to implement the recommendations of an inquiry into the NHS contaminated blood disaster, peers have heard.
Lord [Alf] Morris, president of the Haemophilia Society, was speaking at the second reading of his contaminated blood (support for infected and bereaved persons) bill in the Lords.
Lord Morris, who was Britain’s first minister for disabled people, told peers that at least 1,994 people with haemophilia had so far died after being given NHS blood and blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s.
The scandal has been described as the “worst ever treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”.
But he said there was anger in the haemophilia community about the Department of Health’s treatment of Lord Archer’s independent inquiry into the scandal, and its subsequent report.
And he said there was “deep annoyance” within the Haemophilia Society at claims by junior health minister Anne Milton that she was working closely with the charity on the inquiry’s recommendations.
Lord Morris said the Haemophilia Society had made it “emphatically clear” that it wanted “full implementation” of Lord Archer’s recommendations and that it was “utterly disgraceful” for the government to have ignored a high court ruling in April that it should reconsider its decision not to provide more generous compensation.
The coalition government has announced a review of support for those affected by contaminated blood, which is due to report by the end of the year.
The disabled peer Lord [Colin] Low said health authorities had been guilty of “deplorable” complacency over the scandal, which “reflects discreditably on the administration of our health services and is something that makes us all feel ashamed”.
He added: “Equally shaming is the heartlessness, obfuscation and prevarication shown by successive governments, and the cheese-paring and obstructive nature of their response.”
The Labour peer Baroness Wheeler welcomed the government’s decision to review compensation for those infected with hepatitis C, including the widows of those who had died, and to look at the difficulty faced by those infected with HIV and haemophilia in securing life, mortgage protection and travel insurance, and access to nursing and care services.
Earl Howe, a junior health minister, admitted “anomalies” between the compensation for those infected with HIV and the lower levels awarded to those with hepatitis C, but warned peers not to pass legislation “simply because we have compassion for those affected”.
He said the bill would have a “limited” impact, and said of its measures: “Some are impossible to deliver, some are inappropriate, and the tangible benefits that might arise from others are unclear at best.”
But Lord Morris said the minister’s comments would cause “further despair in the haemophilia community”, and pledged that “if the struggle has to go on, then go on it will until right is done”.
25 October 2010