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Government payments for haemophiliacs unlikely to satisfy campaigners

Susan Watts | 18:50 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

It has been an important day for haemophiliacs given blood products contaminated with viruses including HIV and Hepatitis C in NHS treatment during the 1970s and 1980s.

They have been seeking compensation ever since to adequately reflect their ordeal. In particular they've been seeking parity with payments made in the Republic of Ireland, as recommended by an independent inquiry into this issue two years ago, led by Lord Archer of Sandwell.

You can see the first Newsnight item on this issue from April 17 2007, and more recently on 19 March last 2010, filmed before campaigner and haemophiliac, Haydn Lewis, died.

The government today announced the results of its review of payments to those affected.

Much of this will be welcomed by campaigners and affected families. An apology on behalf of this government and earlier administrations, free prescriptions, counselling and improved payments in the form of lump sums worth tens of thousands of pounds are all acknowledged as overdue across the political spectrum.

Those affected will also welcome moves to make sure that people infected with Hepatitis C and those infected with HIV receive near equality in payments.

But, today's announcement will not satisfy everyone, particularly on the issue of parity with Ireland.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was at pains to make clear that the money he plans to pay out does not reflect liability: "We are recognising the harm and distress that has occurred, and making ex-gratia payments..."

He sees this as an important distinction with the situation in Ireland, where payments to some individuals have reached £1m. This government, in common with earlier administrations, has refused to assess compensation on the same basis, arguing that the Irish blood transfusion service was found to be at fault, and that this is not the case in the UK.

One long-standing campaigner, Carol Grayson, reacted angrily to this position this afternoon, accusing the government of misinformation.

Her husband Pete died in 2005 after receiving a number of contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s, and contracting HIV and hepatitis.

"Haemophiliacs will be mounting a legal challenge as soon as possible, no government should be above the law and must be accountable to the people. This will be a test case for truth and justice. The fight goes on, far from bringing closure, today's announcement has fuelled even more anger, and will definitely not bring resolution."

And this today from the Haemophilia Society: "Whilst there are things to be welcomed in the government's statement, the haemophilia community will see this as a gesture rather than settlement. These measures will not bring closure for the majority and a great opportunity has been missed."

The campaigners themselves were congratulated for keeping this issue in the spotlight, and for so long.

Diane Abbott, replying for the opposition, mentioned Haydn Lewis, who died last year and featured in a number of Newsnight items.

Tragically, his haemophiliac brother, Gareth, also died just before Christmas. Gareth too was named in the House by Jenny Willott MP for his work on keeping this issue in the public eye.

His death, she said, highlights the urgency of addressing the compensation issue.

In April last year, Andrew March, a composer who contracted HIV and hepatitis C through an NHS blood transfusion, won a High Court challenge over compensation levels.

Mr March had criticised the-then government's refusal to match the higher payouts in the Republic of Ireland .

Mr Justice Holman ruled that the way the UK government had reached its decision was indeed flawed, but said it was not his role to rule on the amount paid. He cautioned campaigners then against "false optimism".

Nearly five thousand people were exposed to Hepatitis C before routine heat treating of blood products began in the mid 1980s to kill viruses. They were mainly haemophiliacs, who were given a product to help their blood clot. Of these, more than 1,200 were also infected with HIV.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    NOT MANY VOTES IN HAEMOPHILIA - WAR CONFERS MORE KUDOS

    When Dave and his Merrie Men, sit at the Globopoly gaming table, alleviating desperate wrong at home, advances ones play, not at all. Bringing death and destruction to untold numbers of unknown Johnnie Foreigners, takes you half way round the board.

    Cruel Britannia.

  • Comment number 2.

    Money talks.

    However, it is interesting in many of these cases who walks. And how often.

    Especially when it's others money to ensure they do.

    Hardly a reassuring precedent if the aim is to ensure lessons not only get learned but also not repeated.

    I'd prefer incompetence was not allowed to be repeated as opposed to lawyers simply devising better ways to get richer on behalf of victims and those who created them.

  • Comment number 3.

    I have a severe bleeding disorder which is treated with blood products. I was infected by contaminated NHS blood products with Hepatitis C and have also been exposed to vCJD.

    Watching the government announcement on Monday I have never been more angered and disillusioned in my life - and believe me we bleeders have had a number of let-downs over the years. It amounted to the minimum amount of financial help for the sickest minority of our group. The financial help will only benefit 15% of us - roughly 800 people - and whilst they are the most sick they are also the least likely to benefit long term from the paltry annual ex gratia payment the government have suggested.

    The majority of us with Hepatitis C who do not meet their criteria for payments will get free prescriptions prescriptions - which it is astounding that with a severe medical condition we don't receive already - and the option of counselling.

    That's approximately 4000 of us whose lives have been shattered by contaminated blood products - unable to work, get mortgages, life and travel insurances, unable to have children - and who are not deemed worthy of help until we are dying.

    Comfort and closure? I think not. Our fight goes on...

  • Comment number 4.

    I belong to a branch of political philosophy called 'positive non-interventionists'. The Conservative party are currently the only party that offer people who share my appreciation of the true nature of global economic and political reality, a realistic electoral choice, faced by a country where, for example, North Sea prawns are flown out to Thailand to be peeled then flown back again because it's cheaper than having them peeled in the UK.

    I don't care whether you are Labour, Conservative, ... All I would say is that the number of youth unemployed is rather close to the number of jobs taken by arriving migrant workers from the EU accession states. To me, forget the credit crunch and all the things we did but choose to blame everyone else for, it was the failure of the Cretinaceous period New Labour entities to protect our workforce, and in particular our young workers from a 7 figure inundation they said would only be a few thousand that came in, and made a life on benefits the only remaining choice for them.

    There is no word of utter contempt that I can repeat that can express my disgust that the New Labour government did not protect our workers from the inundation they they said wasn't going to happen.

    They say history is written by the victors. Maybe this little Trogan horse will get through and inform hypothetical future people where the true moronic idiotic and childishly naive blame for our downfall will really lie.

 

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