On 24 November MPs debated the Infected Blood Inquiry and Compensation Framework.
Following the debate, The Hepatitis C Trust has called for clarity from the Government on infected blood compensation.
Leila Reid, Director of Corporate Services at The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “While we welcomed the Government’s recent payment of £100,000 interim compensation to people infected and to bereaved partners, it still remains the case that bereaved parents, children and siblings have not received any compensation for their loss.
“There is work the Government should be doing now to prepare to implement the recommendations of the Infected Blood Inquiry when it concludes next year. In addition, they must address the needs of people affected by the infected blood scandal who are falling through gaps in the present support schemes. The Minister’s statement yesterday left people affected with a disappointing lack of clarity about these issues.”
The debate was led by Dame Diana Johnson MP, chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood. She expressed her disappointment that the Government did not make a full oral statement earlier this year when they published the study into options for compensation carried out by Sir Robert Francis.
Dame Diana went on to speak about her constituent Glenn Wilkinson, who prompted her to join the campaign for justice for people impacted by infected blood:
“During routine dental work, which was conducted in hospital because he was a haemophiliac, Glenn was infected with hepatitis C, which is a virus that can cause serious and life-threatening damage to the liver. The health service that was supposed to keep Glenn healthy and safe had given him a life-threatening disease. Glenn was not alone in that respect. We now know that as a result of being given infected blood and blood products by the NHS during the 1970s and 1980s, over 3,000 people have already died. Even today, on average one person still dies every four days and thousands more people live with bloodborne viruses, such as hepatitis or HIV.”
Dame Diana then asked the responding minister, junior Cabinet Office minister, Alex Burghart MP, for three commitments to people impacted by hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses linked to contaminated blood:
To pledge that the Government will implement the infected blood inquiry recommendations in full.
For the Government to prepare a full compensation framework, so that people do not have to wait longer when compensation comes, by allocating resources to this work and addressing the status of people who fall through gaps in the current system.
To commit to paying fair compensation to all – so far interim payments have been restricted to people infected and bereaved partners, but bereaved parents, children and carers have not received any financial support for their loss.
Alex Burghart MP delivered a response from the Government, saying: “I am confident that Sir Brian Langstaff’s infected blood inquiry, whose report we expect in the middle of next year, will deliver the answers that the victims of infected blood have waited so long for, and will make recommendations for compensation and wider recommendations to ensure that such a disaster can never happen again in our country.”
He did not clarify when the Government plans to publish Sir Robert’s study of compensation and the Government response to it, even after being questioned on the matter by several MPs in yesterday’s session.
When the Government received the report in March – now eight months ago – Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis pledged that the Government would “publish the Study and the Government response, in time for the Inquiry and its core participants to consider them before Sir Robert gives evidence to the Inquiry”.
Sir Robert subsequently gave evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry in July. Dr Phillipa Whitford MP said asking people impacted to wait longer “is just cruel” and noted that not all of Sir Robert’s recommendations are about the future and a final compensation scheme, with some instead affecting support schemes that people are dependent on now during the cost of living crisis.
We thank all of the 19 MPs who spoke in the debate, and 30 from across all political parties who have supported the call for the debate to be organised.
Sir Peter Bottomley, co-chair of the APPG on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood and longtime campaigner for justice, talked about how many MPs have found that constituents affected by infected blood “have suffered all kinds of indignities” and stigmatising questions:
“The worst that has been described to me by constituents is that every time they go into hospital, there is a clinician they do not know and they are asked how much alcohol they consume, because liver disease can be an indication of infection or of heavy drinking. I have argued that people ought to be able to have a flag to say, “Don’t ask these questions of this person, because they have to answer them several times a year and it is deeply wrong.” People ought to be able to say, “Look at these three or four paragraphs to know who I am and what my condition is. Now treat the thing I’m bringing to you. Don’t start suspecting me, as others have, of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.””
Charlotte Nichols MP asked a question about gaps in present compensation system and the need for fast compensation claims when the final inquiry reports, which Dame Diana then supported:
“Interim compensation payments made to those infected and bereaved partners have huge holes in them, with too many people unable to access that support, including constituents of mine whose parents were killed by infected blood or blood products. Does my right hon. Friend [Dame Diana] agree that the Government must compensate both infected and affected victims of infected blood and blood products, and that the compensation arm’s length body should be able to begin accepting compensation claims as soon as the inquiry reports?”
Dr Philippa Whitford MP, a consultant breast surgeon before she became an MP, spoke about how the infected blood scandal continued to shock her as a medical professional:
“I had been a surgeon for over 30 years before I came to this place. The scandal began to leak out in the ’80s, and I remember the impact that it had on me. I was shocked at the idea that, having trusted something that was signed off by a Government or agency as safe, I might have transfused someone…to save their life or simply to deal with post-surgical anaemia, and I might have destroyed their life. That had a big impact on me.”
Margaret Greenwood MP spoke about the long fight one of her constituents faced, in part because of lost medical records:
“I want to raise the case of one of my constituents, who was one of those patients. She has now been recognised officially as a victim of the contaminated blood scandal, but getting there has been, in her words, “a long, upsetting and depressing process”, both in an administrative sense and in terms of her health. For many years, she was denied any recognition or support due to lost medical records. She said there were times when she decided it was best for her to just admit she was beaten and move on.”
Ian Lavery MP spoke passionately about the scale of the scandal and the slow progress of justice:
“This happened almost half a century ago and onwards. They have every right to be not just frustrated but appalled and disgusted about the way they have all been treated and about what has been described as a cover-up. This is not just a scandal and a tragedy but the biggest cover-up in the history of the NHS, and it is yet to be recognised by the Government. Lord Robert Winston described the scandal as the “worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.”
Florence Eshalomi MP, the shadow junior Cabinet Office minister, responded for the Opposition. She reflected on her late mother’s experience of sickle cell anaemia – for which she required regular blood transfusions – and how while blood and blood products on the NHS are thankfully now safe with modern practices, “sadly, treatments in the ’70s and ’80s put patients at unacceptable risk of contracting serious and life-threatening diseases.” Eshalomi highlighted that Sir Robert Francis’ report had been published in June 2022, but that only one of 19 recommendations he made had been followed up by the Government.
On 24 November MPs debated the Infected Blood Inquiry and Compensation Framework.