Three former health secretaries have urged the UK government to immediately compensate victims of the contaminated blood scandal.
On Friday, the head of the contaminated blood investigation called for the victims and their families. to be paid “without delay” after recommending the level of interim compensation payments. Sir Brian Langstaff said that “payments of not less than £100,000” should be given to infected persons and bereaved partners.
Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors, who represents some of the victims, said on Monday he would increase the pressure on the government after Boris Johnson was summoned. Paying temporary amounts to affected people all at once, often before they die. The immediate payment proposal was supported by former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt, Matt Hancock and Andy Burnham.
At least 2,400 people died after contracting HIV or hepatitis C as a result of receiving infected blood from the NHS in the 1970s and 1980s, and 30,000 people became seriously ill. The scandal has been labeled as the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.
An open letter sent to the prime minister this month by organizations such as the Hemophilia Association and the Terrence Higgins Trust said 419 people had died between July 2017, when the investigation was announced, and February this year. He said that one infected person dies every four days.
Ros Cooper, who contracted hepatitis C after being given infected blood products as a child, described the news of the interim recommendation as an “extraordinary development”. Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think this is proof of how much has been uncovered to support this claim.”
Cooper, who started taking blood clotting factor products when he was six months old, said contracting hepatitis C made him unable to work. “She’s been the controlling factor in my life ever since I found out when I was young,” Cooper said. He said he suffered from mental health problems and fatigue: “The mental side effects of being told he was going to die in his 20s were enormous.”
He added that the “compound” of having to “fight ever since, trying to get some approval of justice from successive governments”.
Hunt echoed Collins, calling for “immediate” payments to all victims and bereaved partners. Joining the Today program, he urged ministers to take action before more victims die.
“I urge ministers to acknowledge that time is of the essence and to wait just a few months, for example, it will wait a few more months until the leadership campaign is resolved and the new prime minister decides. People may be dead,” he said.
“We must do it now. We have waited too long. The successive governments of which I am a part have not acted as quickly as they should have, and we have to accept this as a terrible, terrible injustice.”
Hancock said the government had a “moral duty” to compensate the victims of the scandal, and that it was “confident”. Burnham, a former health secretary and now mayor of Greater Manchester, be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter charges.
The Cabinet Office said on Saturday it would act on compensation recommendations “with the utmost urgency” and that a copy of the investigation report would appear before lawmakers in September – “when parliament reconvenes”.
A spokesperson said: “The government is grateful to Sir Brian Langstaff for his interim report on temporary compensation for victims of infected blood.
“We recognize how important this will be to infected and affected people across the UK and can confirm that the government will consider Sir Brian’s report and the recommendations of Sir Robert Francis QC with the utmost urgency and respond as soon as possible. A copy of the report will be left at home when it is collected.”