Peers approve bill to right wrongs of NHS’s ‘worst treatment disaster’


A bill that would provide vital financial support to the disabled victims of the “worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS” has been approved by the House of Lords.

The contaminated blood (support for infected and bereaved persons) bill was introduced and steered through the Lords by the former disabled people’s minister, Lord [Alf] Morris.

He told fellow peers that of about 5,000 people with haemophilia, 95 per cent were infected with hepatitis C and a quarter with HIV, after being treated with contaminated NHS blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Lord Morris, president of the Haemophilia Society, said an estimated 1,974 people had died due to being infected, and that statisticians found the disaster “involved the haemophilia community in a loss of life more savage in proportion to the number of people at risk than the Black Death”.

His bill would implement all 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 Archer said many of those infected were now “suffering severe financial embarrassment” and that the bill was “a test of the priorities of our community”.

Lord Morris welcomed an amendment to his bill, introduced by the disabled peer Baroness Masham, a vice-president of the Haemophilia Society, that would ensure NHS blood was filtered to remove the infective prions that cause variant CJD.

Lord Morris said hundreds of people with haemophilia had been told by the Department of Health that they had been given blood from donors who subsequently died of variant CJD.

He said the public apology and financial support announced by the government for those affected by the thalidomide scandal “must very strongly support the case for the government now to endorse the provisions of this bill”.

His bill will now be debated by MPs, with its second reading due on 5 February.

The Haemophilia Society has organised a lobby of parliament on 3 February, while an early day motion backing the bill has been signed by more than 100 MPs.

The charity welcomed the bill’s passage through the Lords and said it would be an “outrage” if the government attempted to block its progress.

25 January 2010

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