The Hepatitis C Trust responds to compensation framework study

 The Hepatitis C Trust has welcomed the publication of the study by Sir Robert Francis QC last week that made recommendations for a framework for compensation and redress for those impacted by infected blood. 

The full study can be read here. Headlines include:

  • “Without prejudging the outcome of the Inquiry”, Sir Robert suggests there is a “strong moral case” for compensating people based on eight points he then outlines (e.g. “It is likely that in hindsight, the transmission of infection to these patients could have been avoided” and “The harm caused has been devastating and lifelong”.)
  • The principal viruses for which the compensation scheme must offer redress are hepatitis C and HIV.
  • The conditions for eligibility for the directly infected should be if the applicant has been diagnosed as being infected with either hepatitis or HIV (or both); the applicant received one or more blood transfusions or blood products known to be capable of transmitting hepatitis C or HIV; and the applicant received the relevant treatment within or blood stocks from the period of eligibility employed by the current support schemes (e.g. up to September 1991 in England), or if in “a period to be defined [subject to any findings of the Inquiry with regard to such dates]”, the applicant’s infection was likely to have been caused by the administration of a relevant treatment.
  • Where possible, eligibility should be automatic for those who have already been accepted as eligible for regular support by one of the existing support schemes, or any of the preceding schemes. Where that is not possible, it is important that a sympathetic and sensitive attitude is taken to the processing of applications without rigid adherence to legal concepts of proof.
  • Where an eligible infected person has died, a claim may be brought on behalf of their estate for compensation for the injury and loss suffered during their lifetime.
  • In terms of those not directly infected, Sir Robert suggests entitlement to a claim might include those in a marital or comparable relationship with an infected person; children; parents or siblings of infected persons whose infection started before the age of 18; unpaid carers; friends maintaining a close relationship with the infected person for a continuous period of at least two years; those who have "in fact suffered a mental or physical injury as a result of the infection or its consequences"; and dependents.
  • Commenting on possible models of compensation, Sir Francis indicates that a bespoke individualised model (as seen in the Republic of Ireland) would be “complex and burdensome”, instead suggesting a more standardised tariff-based model designed to find “the appropriate level of award from a relatively simple account of the case”.
  • Applicants should have the choice of taking awards for future regular financial loss as a lump sum or by way of periodical payments.
  • Sir Robert recommends that the Government should immediately consider offering a standard figure by way of substantial interim payments, on account of awards likely to be made under the scheme, to infected persons currently in receipt of support under any support scheme. The figure offered should represent broadly the minimum amount an infected person could be expected to receive by way of a final award.

Samantha May, Helpline Information and Support Service Manager at The Hepatitis C Trust, commented: “We welcome Sir Robert’s findings on the potential compensation framework for those impacted by infected blood, and further look forward to hearing his evidence to the Inquiry in July. The publication of this report is an important step.

“We particularly welcome his findings on the need for immediate interim compensation while the new scheme is being set up, in light of the long wait that those impacted by this historic wrong have faced. It is also welcome that Sir Robert’s report recognises the importance of compensation for loved ones, friends and carers, in acknowledgement of the wider impact of infected blood.

“We look forward to the Government’s response to these recommendations and the full Infected Blood Inquiry.”

If anyone needs support on any aspects of the report, you can contact us on our helpline – 020 7089 6221 or by email helpline@hepctrust.org.uk.