Fury over Department of Health delay allocating £25m to contaminated blood victims

Victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal have reacted with fury over a delay by the Department of Health in allocating £25million promised by the prime minister.

In March this year David Cameron apologised for the saga that saw thousands of people infected with HIV and hepatitis C (hep C) through bad blood and blood products used by the NHS before 1991.

He also pledged £25million to reform the current system of support for those affected, which is overseen by three charity trusts that have been heavily criticised by victims as unfit for purpose.

A statement from Lord Prior of Brampton, parliamentary under secretary of state in the Department of Health, today said no decisions will be made on how and when the money will be spent before Parliament breaks for the summer recess on Tuesday.

He said: “While I understand that beneficiaries to the current schemes may be frustrated by this wait, this is an extremely complex and sensitive area and any reform plans must be carefully considered before a consultation can be launched.”

The announcement has infuriated victims, many local, who have lived for years with debilitating health problems caused by HIV and hep C and say they have never received fair compensation from the government.

Some 315 people with the blood clotting disorder haemophilia were infected at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.

Former Royal Free haemophilia patient Bruce Norval, who contracted hep C, said: “This a contemptible response, making the dying wait another year in enforced hardship, knowing a significant number will die waiting.

“Thirty one years of campaigning, and fighting a government that has shredded the truth and now seems determined to wait us out, because the dead don’t complain.”

Highgate mother Della Hirsch, whose son Nick died aged 36 after being infected with hep C from blood products, said: “My first thought is that the Conservatives have shown an amazingly brave and bold face by releasing this statement last thing on a Friday!

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“It’s just another chicken s*** statement of such cringe-worthy nothingness that one is lost for words.

“We - the affected electorate - will just have to carry on fighting, won’t we?”

Former Crouch End resident Clair Walton, who was infected with HIV by her husband who received blood products to treat haemophilia, said: “I am disappointed but it is not a surprise. The scandal continues. One would hope that this delay is to ensure government deals with this properly but I doubt this.

“Sadly another HIV-infected haemophiliac lost his life this month, with his widow left to deal with the inhumane trust.”

Lord Prior’s statement also said that unseen government documents relating to the scandal, from 1986-1995, will be made available “late this summer”.

And he said the government would “remind” GPs of their duty to offer a hep C test to everyone in the UK who had a blood transfusion before 1991 - a recommendation of the recent Penrose inquiry into tainted blood.

He repeated the prime minister’s apology to victims, saying: “This is aptly described by many as one of the great tragedies of modern health care and on March 25 the prime minister apologised on behalf of the government to all those that were infected.

“I would like to start by repeating this sentiment and state, on behalf of this government, how sorry we are for what happened and for the distress caused to those affected and their families.”

Victims have called for an acceptable lump sum payment for their agony and pain along with regular support payments. It is estimated such a payout would cost £1.5billion.

Of the 7,000 people given contaminated blood products, some through routine transfusions, only an estimated 6,000 know it. Some 2,000 people have died.

In terms of death toll, the contaminated blood scandal is the 15th largest peacetime disaster in British history.