Families are still missing out on formal compensation for the contaminated blood scandal, campaigners warned last night.
With a life being lost every four days, they demanded immediate action from the Government. Some victims and relatives have received nothing while others were given only limited sums.
Those paid off early on found the money came with a gagging clause, stopping them speaking out or seeking further redress as the true scale of the scandal emerged. They now want a proper compensation scheme before their time runs out.
The Government insists it is following the proceedings carefully. But campaigners say evidence of harm done at the hands of NHS officials is already ‘overwhelming’ – and the victims cannot wait any longer [File photo]
An estimated 7,500 patients were infected in the 1970s and 1980s through receiving tainted NHS blood in what has been called ‘one of the worst peacetime disasters in our country’s history’.
The Daily Mail started campaigning on the issue as long ago as 1990.
Former health secretary Andy Burnham, who has become a vocal campaigner on tainted blood, said: ‘We have all let them down over many years. They have been forced to beg for scraps – for people in this position it is awful and just wrong. The time has come to do the right thing by these families.’
No one has received formal compensation because the Government has not admitted legal liability.
The contaminated blood scandal centred on the use of clotting agents for patients with haemophilia in the 1970s and 1980s. They were infected with HIV and hepatitis from a product called factor VIII – a clotting agent extracted from the blood of donors [File photo]
Victims whose lives have been destroyed by disease have instead been forced to apply, cap in hand, for discretionary payments and meagre living allowances under a series of ‘support schemes’.
And for the grieving survivors of those who have already died from the scandal, most get nothing at all.
Payments for the bereaved are limited to those on very low incomes and reserved for husbands, wives and partners only – those who lost parents or children get nothing.
Theresa May recently raised the size of the support scheme in England – from £46million to £75million – but campaigners have stressed this is insufficient and does not apply to the rest of the UK.
Campaigners want the UK to follow the model set by the Republic of Ireland, where special tribunals decide whether people are entitled to compensation, and how much.
The NHS was very low on supplies, so it was imported from the US, where it had often been taken from high-risk groups including drug addicts, prostitutes, prisoners. A stock picture is used above for illustrative purposes [File photo]
Some 3,000 people have already died after being infected by cheap blood products imported from the US. Voices for a proper payouts have been growing since a public inquiry started three weeks ago.
The Government insists it is following the proceedings carefully. But campaigners say evidence of harm done at the hands of NHS officials is already ‘overwhelming’ – and the victims cannot wait any longer.
Seven opposition leaders have written to Mrs May demanding immediate action, stressing the victims cannot wait until the inquiry delivers its findings, which would come after hundreds more have died.
The letter is signed by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem Sir Vince Cable, Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, as well as the leaders of the DUP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and Change UK.
They told Mrs May: ‘Since you announced the inquiry in July 2017, one victim has died on average every four days. Justice delayed even further will be justice denied for many of those currently still with us. This is why, with the utmost urgency, we ask you to address campaigners’ central demand and provide full compensation to all those infected.’
Diana Johnson, MP for Hull North, who organised the letter, said: ‘Even in a Parliament which is in disarray we have all the opposition leaders and a majority of MPs behind this.
‘It is quite clear that people have been harmed.’
Clive Smith of the Haemophilia Society said: ‘Many people gave up promising careers to look after family members who were infected.
‘They have been left destitute and on their knees, not only by the devastation of losing their loved ones, but also financially. The Government has just ignored them.’
Campaigners want the UK to follow the model set by the Republic of Ireland, where special tribunals decide whether people are entitled to compensation, and how much. A stock picture used above for illustrative purposes [File photo]
The inquiry has sat for two weeks in London and tomorrow is to resume in Belfast. It will then travel to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds before returning to London later this year. It is due to last two years.
The contaminated blood scandal centred on the use of clotting agents for patients with haemophilia in the 1970s and 1980s.
They were infected with HIV and hepatitis from a product called factor VIII – a clotting agent extracted from the blood of donors.
The NHS was very low on supplies, so it was imported from the US, where it had often been taken from high-risk groups including drug addicts, prostitutes, prisoners.
Chrissie White Cannon, 58, whose husband Allen White died with HIV in 1991, aged just 38, said: ‘It is injustice on top of injustice that victims have got to tell their stories again, to relive it all, just in an attempt to get what is fair.’
She was left with two daughters, Sarah, 11, and Naomi, nine, when Mr White died. Although they received some support – in return for dropping a legal challenge – since Allen died they have received nothing.
Mrs White Cannon, who lives in Huddersfield, added: ‘Nothing is going to bring Allen back but he was very clear that he wanted to see compensation for his girls, even if he wasn’t going to see it himself.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We’ve always been clear that all those who have been affected by this tragedy should be supported by a fair and transparent support scheme that focuses on their welfare and long-term independence.
‘We have continued to follow the Infected Blood Inquiry closely and have demonstrated we are listening by committing up to a further £30million to the scheme. We have also listened to the call for parity of support across the UK.’
Contaminated blood scandal Q&A
By Ben Spencer, Medical Correspondent for the Daily Mail
What do blood campaigners want?
They want the legal right to compensation – not just ‘charity’. They say the scandal should be treated as any other case of medical negligence with a court deciding on blame and allocating compensation to cover loss and suffering. This should be available to surviving victims and bereaved families.
Why have victims missed out?
The Government has never admitted liability despite Theresa May calling it a ‘tragedy that should never have happened’. Because no one has admitted they did anything wrong officials will not pay out.
What support has there been?
Surviving victims can apply for ‘goodwill’ maintenance payments and discretionary support for one-off costs, such as repairing a leaking roof. This system dates back to 1991, when the Government set up a series of charitable trusts to provide help to victims as part of a settlement which saw a victims’ group drop a legal suit.
What went wrong?
Victims complained that they were forced to jump through hoops to get support payments – to ‘go cap in hand’ to the charitable trusts to ask for help. They also had somehow to ‘prove’ that their condition was caused by contaminated blood.
The payments were discretionary – not a legal right – and trustees had the power to decide whether cash should be handed out. One dying patient had to sign over ownership to 58 per cent of his home in order to get support payments.
What changes were made in 2017?
The charitable trusts were disbanded in 2017 and brought under the control of the NHS with the payments increased. Survivors are entitled to between £18,458 and £44,000 a year, depending on the extent of their condition.
They can also apply for support payments for one-off costs, such as accommodation repairs, counselling, mobility aids and respite breaks. Victims say the schemes are still humiliating: people who contracted HIV by having sex with someone who was unknowingly infected by contaminated blood, must prove they were married or in a long-term cohabiting relationship.
What about widows and widowers?
Bereaved spouses or long-term partners can apply for ‘income top-up’. This is means tested. Those with a household income of less than £10,000 a year can apply for up to £18,000.
Those with a household income of more than £28,401 get nothing. Bereaved people with dependent children get extra payments.
How have children been dealt with?
Orphans who lost their parents to the blood scandal are assigned a care allowance, which is given to the person who cares for them, but this ceases when they reach 18.
Otherwise, children whose parents died receive no support. Parents of children who died get nothing.