Thousands of survivors of the infected blood scandal, labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS, will be given compensation payments of £100,000, the Government has announced.
The fiasco resulted in an estimated 2,400 deaths of patients infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that he wants money to be paid to victims and their surviving partners following recommendations from a public inquiry into the scandal.
The Government said it intends to make payments to those who have been infected and bereaved partners in England by the end of October. The same payments will be made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
READ MORE: Interim compensation payments of at least £100,000 should be paid to contaminated blood victims 'without delay'
Final recommendations on compensation for a wider group of people – such as bereaved parents and the children of victims – are expected when the inquiry concludes next year.
Mr Johnson said: “While nothing can make up for the pain and suffering endured by those affected by this tragic injustice, we are taking action to do right by victims and those who have tragically lost their partners by making sure they receive these interim payments as quickly as possible.
“We will continue to stand by all those impacted by this horrific tragedy, and I want to personally pay tribute to all those who have so determinedly fought for justice.”
Most of those involved had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia and relied on regular injections of the US product Factor VIII to survive. They were unaware they were receiving contaminated Factor VIII from people who were paid to donate, including prisoners and drug addicts.
New cases of HIV and hepatitis continued to be diagnosed decades after the first contaminations, resulting in many early deaths.
The compensation has been welcomed by those affected by the scandal, including Mark Fox, 44, from Seaham. The former cosmetic technician contracted Hepatitis C after being treated with a contaminated blood product for haemophilia as a child.
He is among those due to receive compensation and said the announcement was important because it represented an acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
“It’s not about compensation, it’s about someone saying sorry," he said.
“It’s that they tried to hide it, and so many people tried to brush it under the carpet – if you mucked up, have the balls to accept it. Grow up, be an adult. Compensation will help so many people.
"Fortunately, I’m not dead yet – I don’t know how long I’ve got, but some kids have lost their mams and dads, so I am pleased there is this recognition.”
The announcement follows recommendations by Sir Robert Francis QC, who led a review of compensation for those affected by the scandal and said there would be a “strong moral case” for offering money to victims, independent of any issue of legal liability or culpability, if certain criteria were met.
The inquiry into the scandal, which was announced by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2017 and began the following year, has taken evidence from more than 5,000 witnesses during hearings across all four nations of the UK. It is due to conclude next year.
The probe featured harrowing evidence from patients and their families, who described being kept in the dark about the risk of HIV infection among haemophiliac patients, having to keep their diagnoses private through fear of vilification at the time of the Aids crisis, and living with the physical effects of HIV.
Others accused the Government of an “industrial-scale cover-up” amid allegations of inappropriate treatment given to patients, tests being done on people without their knowledge, and the results being withheld for several years.
Kate Burt, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: “Finally, after nearly five decades, the Government has accepted it must pay compensation to those infected as a result of the contaminated blood scandal. This is a significant development. However, the majority of the bereaved – including parents and the children of those who died – will receive nothing.
“Steps must be taken now to set up a workable scheme which can deliver full compensation quickly and fairly to all those who suffered devastating loss because of this NHS treatment disaster.”
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