Northern Ireland

Contaminated blood victims 'no closer' to support parity

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Media captionBlood contamination victims

Northern Ireland victims of the contaminated blood scandal have said they are no closer to securing financial support that would bring them into line with victims in England.

They met Health Minister Robin Swann on Thursday and urged him to address a disparity in payments.

Victims in Northern Ireland are paid less than those elsewhere in the UK.

They said the meeting was constructive but Mr Swann told them he was keeping his options open.

Nigel Hamilton of the patient group Haemophilia NI said people affected by the scandal in Northern Ireland must be treated the same as those living elsewhere.

"The minister... listened to what we all had to say - there were three different groups of people there," said Mr Hamilton.

"He's asked us to work with him as he goes through his various options."

Paul Kirkpatrick said that was "very disappointing" but added that the minister had listened to the victims' stories and they hoped for a development within the next three weeks.

The scandal resulted in people who had haemophilia being treated with blood infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.

Last year, the contaminated blood inquiry heard harrowing stories from people across the UK about how lives had been destroyed by infected blood.

About 5,000 people, including 99 from Northern Ireland, were infected by what has been called "the worst scandal in the history of the NHS".

Victims in Northern Ireland receive less financial support than those in England, Scotland and Wales.

In some cases the difference can amount to as much as £14,000 a year.

In January, Stormont's Department of Finance announced that £1m would go towards victims in Northern Ireland but only £600,000 of that was released by the Department of Health.

It followed a commitment in the New Decade, New Approach document, which said the executive would bring about parity in financial support to Northern Ireland victims of contaminated blood with those in England.

Victims in Northern Ireland are expected to get a backdated one-off interim payment on Friday.

It is understood the remaining £400,000 will be released by the end of the financial year.

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