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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Zoe Grunewald and Archie Mitchell

Rishi Sunak must now compensate infected blood scandal victims, politicians demand

Factor 8

Rishi Sunak has been urged to turn his attention to other long-standing injustices in the wake of his action to exonerate wrongly convicted postmasters over the Horizon IT scandal.

After the prime minister paved the way for hundreds of postmasters wrongly prosecuted by the Post Office to receive compensation, he has been told to roll out compensation to victims of the infected blood scandal.

In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands died in what is widely recognised as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS after being given blood products contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C.

Under an initial compensation scheme, only victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment of about £100,000.

Victims of the infected blood scandal have been waiting years for proper compensation
— (Factor 8)

And ministers have said they will not take action to further compensate victims until an official inquiry into the scandal published its report, expected in March.

But Dame Diana Johnson, chair of parliament’s home affairs committee, said victims cannot wait as “people are dying”.

She joined senior politicians in calling for ministers to act over the infected blood scandal, after the ITV drama, Mr Bates vs the Post Office, led to change after years of inaction in the postmasters’ cases.

Dame Diana told The Independent: “It’s really frustrating. And obviously, it’s great the publicity that Mr Bates and the Post Office got and that the government has now done something quickly. But it is a bit galling when you can see that they could do the same if they wanted to, because it’s all set out very clearly by the judge what they need to do.”

Urging the PM to take action quickly, she added: “The recommendations have all been made to the government. There’s no need to wait. They could pay out now.

“The key point everyone keeps saying is that one person dies on average every four days… people are dying.”

Dame Diana Johnson (fourth from left), Jason Evans (fifth from left), Damian Green (sixth from left) and other campaigners in Downing Street with a letter calling for faster compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal
— (PA)

Meanwhile the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, told The Independent that MPs need to look at “how it looks to the country” leaving long-running scandals unresolved.

“This week, the whole country has seen how the government and parliament only do their job when forced to do so by a TV drama. It is not a good look,” he said.

Addressing the infected blood scandal, Mr Burnham said: “Thousands of lives have been cut short, many more people have been forced to live with life-limiting conditions and hundreds of thousands have been ruined.

“The way they have been treated is a terrible stain on this nation.

“It is a downright disgrace.”

Mr Burnham, who served as health secretary during the last Labour government, also said people have “not got time” to wait for Sir Brian Langstaff to publish his inquiry’s report. And he said the number of people who have died waiting for compensation is “shameful”.

“The contaminated blood scandal has been running since the Seventies right under the nose of successive governments, with thousands of letters written by MPs, countless debates,” he told The Independent.

Sir Brian has said relatives, including parents who lost children and children orphaned when their parents died, remain “unrecognised” when it comes to compensation.

Jason Evans, whose father died due to Aids after being infected by dangerous Factor VIII blood products, said the government’s response to the Post Office drama has brought “hope” but also a “sense of urgent disparity”.

“While I applaud the government’s actions to rectify the injustices faced by the victims of the Post Office scandal, I can’t help but draw parallels to the plight of those affected by the infected blood scandal,” he wrote in The Independent.

Mr Evans said it is “time for the government to step up and right the wrongs of the past”, as justice for the victims of the infected blood scandal “has been delayed too long”.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said last week it will not take an ITV drama for compensation to be paid to victims of the infected blood scandal.

While she defended the government’s actions in trying to resolve “some very difficult and long-running issues”, Ms Mordaunt said she would speak to the Cabinet Office to ensure lessons are learned “particularly” from the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors advising 1,500 victims and families affected by the infected blood scandal, said governments have been “expert at avoidance and delay over many, many years”.

He told The Independent: “First there was a refusal to admit mistakes had been made in the use of infected blood products. More recently, the government has talked of accepting the moral case for compensation, yet these words have not been matched by action. Those victims left are still dying without proper compensation and the families of the bereaved continue to be treated shoddily, despite all they too have suffered.”

He said infected blood victims need an apology and full compensation, as well as lessons being learned to ensure similar scandals “can never happen again”.

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