Christmas of uncertainty for NHS blood victims as government delays again
PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 December 2015 | UPDATED: 18:00 17 December 2015
Victims of the contaminated blood scandal face a Christmas of uncertainty as the government has once again delayed making amends for decades of suffering.
Local residents are among 7,500 nationally who were infected with HIV and hepatitis C (hep C) from high-risk blood products supplied by the NHS up until 1991 and have lived in ill-health ever since.
Campaigners have been fighting for 30 years for a public enquiry into the scandal and for a proper system of compensation and support for those whose lives were torn apart.
Yesterday, during an urgent debate in the House of Commons, health minister Jane Ellison admitted the timetable for reforming systems of support for victims, described as “completely unfit for purpose”, has slipped again.
“I recognise that I committed in earlier debates to consulting on proposals to reform the current payment schemes before the end of the year,” she said.
“Despite our best efforts to meet that commitment, we are unfortunately not ready to publish the consultation before the recess. However, I confirm today that it will be published in January.
“The delay will, I know, be disappointing for many who were anticipating the consultation before the end of the year.
“I apologise for the delay, in particular to Members of the House who have been campaigning tirelessly for a resolution on behalf of their constituents and to those who are directly affected, who continue to wait patiently for our proposals.”
Earlier this year prime minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the government for the tragedy and promised £25million support for victims immediately and to increase that after the general election in May.
But the money has not been released and announcements were first delayed until after the summer recess of Parliament, then until after the chancellor’s Autumn Spending Review, and then again until the end of this year before yesterday’s further hold-up.
It brings yet more agony for those who have lost their health or loved ones to the scandal, as they face another Christmas without proper financial support.
Former Kilburn resident Bruce Norval, who was treated with contaminated blood factor products many thousands of times and contracted hep C, said of the delays in November: “The state still insists in ignoring the illegality, and unethical treatment. Patients were used as lab rats and claiming no fault is an affront to stark evidence to the contrary.”
He is among 7,500 in the UK with the blood disorder haemophilia who contracted HIV or hep C following a deadly medical oversight in which blood products from high risk donors, such as drug addicts and prisoners, were given to NHS patients.
Diana Johnson MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, told the Commons yesterday: “On three occasions, ministers promised a statement before Christmas. When the minister speaks about a consultation in January, I assume that she means January 2016.
“I would like clarification on that, because dates always seem to slip, and such action from the government fuels distrust and resentment among people who have been let down for too long.”