Blood-inquiry families heckle PM over compensation

by | Jul 26, 2023 | Health

This video can not be playedTo play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Rishi Sunak says the government will wait for the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report before responding to questions around victim compensation.Bereaved families heckled the prime minister when he told the inquiry the government would act as “quickly as possible”.They want him to accept recommendations made three months ago by the chairman.Nearly 30,000 people in the UK were given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 80s. Some victims have received financial support but not all have been fully compensated.The inquiry has recommended the government establishes an arms-length compensation body as soon as possible, and definitely before the final report in the autumn.Mr Sunak told the inquiry people infected and affected by the scandal had “suffered for decades” and he wanted a resolution to “this appalling tragedy”.But although policy work was progressing and the government in a position to move quickly, the work had “not been concluded”.He indicated there was a range of complicated issues to work through.”If it was a simple matter, no-one would have called for an inquiry,” Mr Sunak said.But he confirmed the government was committed to compensation and accepted the moral case for it. Asked by inquiry counsel Jenni Richards KC if he could give any reassurance over the timescale for compensation, Mr Sunak said: “As quickly as thoroughness allows.”But he did not want to “add to the years, if not decades, of dashed false hope and dashed expectations, by putting an arbitrary timescale on something”.Campaign group Factor 8 said Mr Sunak had offered “neither new information not commitments” to the victims and bereaved families, which felt “like a betrayal”.Haemophilia Society chief executive Kate Burt said: “This final delay is demeaning, insulting and immensely damaging. “We urge the prime minister to find the will to do the right thing and finally deliver compensation which recognises the suffering that has been caused.”What is the infected blood scandal? The inquiry was established to examine how thousands of patients in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C some 40 years ago, how authorities – including government – responded, and whether there was a cover-up.Thousands of NHS patients with haemophilia and other blood disorders became seriously ill after being given a blood transfusion or a new treatment called factor VIII or IX from the mid-1970s onwards.At the time, the medication was imported from the US, where it was made from the pooled blood plasma of thousands of paid donors, including some in high-risk groups, such as prisoners and drug users.If a single donor was infected with a blood-borne virus such as hepatitis or HIV, then the whole batch of medication could be contaminated.About 2,900 people died in what has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.Now the families of those affected want Downing Street to respond to the compensation recommendations made by the inquiry – which some are speculating could cost the government billions of pounds.Bereaved relatives in government compensation pleaParents and children ‘should get blood payout’Infected blood inquiry: Five things we have learnedThey have already written a letter to No 10, asking for urgent action on the payments.When running for Prime Minister in July 2022, Rishi Sunak called the contaminated blood scandal a “tragic injustice” and promised to provide certainty to survivors.Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, has already given evidence to the inquiry this week – she was formally the minister responsible as paymaster general between February 2020 and September 2021.She said the Covid pandemic had been “all-consuming” but added that the government had not been dragging its feet over paying compensation. This was backed up by current paymaster general Jeremy Quin, who, when giving evidence on Tuesday, said he was determined to “redress” amid anger over fears that the delays are because compensat …

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