David Cameron reveals £125m of contaminated blood victim payments as one of last acts as Prime Minister, which campaigners brand “an insult”
- Credit: PA
As one of his final acts as Prime Minister David Cameron delivered the news contaminated blood victims have been expecting for months.
Responding to a question from Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill at his final Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron announced that every victim of the NHS contaminated blood scandal will for the first time receive a regular annual support payment.
Consultation on the reform of support arrangements for people affected by failings in the 1970s and 1980s, which saw them infected with hepatitis C and HIV, was launched in January following a delay.
The government announced at that time that £100m would be allocated to help the victims, in addition to the £25m which was allocated in March 2015.
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The announcement was branded 'an insult' by some of those affected.
Andrew Evans, of the Tainted Blood campaign group, said they are 'thoroughly disgusted' as discretionary support from charities will no longer be available.
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'As it stands, as a co-infected person at Stage 1 hepatitis, I will take a hit of around £4,000 until 2018, when the payments will be increased to just less than the level they're currently at,' he said.
'In fact, for most infected they'll see nothing but a very small increase in the level of payment they currently receive. There will be a new Stage 1 payment without assessment, but this is as little as £3,500 per year. Bereaved will receive a one-off £10,000 at time of death. This compared to the Scottish scheme is insulting and miserly.'
Victims with Stage 1 hepatitis C had more reason to be optimistic about the changes.
Michelle Tolley, 51, of Sparham, near Lenwade, only discovered she had been infected last autumn, and will now benefit from £3,500 a year.
'For me that is a step in the right direction,' she said.
'There are many people saying this is an insult, but it is better than nothing. It is a start and we have to try to build on that.
'Having said that I have not suffered as much or as long as many other people have, and we all hope there is going to be more movement.
'It is paltry, and it is an insult, but it is something. For me that is the positivity to take away from it.'
Mrs Tolley agreed the £10,000 payment to bereaved partners and spouses was inappropriate.
'You can't put a price on a person's life,' she said.
'There is no amount of money that could bring that person back, or could replace that loss. Maybe it will help a family with a few bills but it feels like putting a price on a life.'
Mr Cameron had apologised last March for the saga which saw thousands of people accidentally infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood and blood products used by the NHS before 1991.
But Mrs Tolley said an apology is not enough.
'I think the government needs to finally accept liability, but it won't do that because it will cost it too much money,' she said.
'It is diabolical that people are suffering and having to live off ex-gratia payments.'
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who has been fighting in Parliament on behalf of contaminated blood victims, said the scheme should 'get under way as fast as possible'.
'I've fought for constituents on this issue for years – including for Annie Walker, who sadly passed away earlier this year from her illnesses – and they deserve closure,' she said.
'The new scheme will be simpler, which is important because many felt that previously they had to go cap in hand to ask for the support that should simply have been available.
'The new scheme also uses additional funding to help more people than before, with new payments going to those infected in the early stage of hepatitis C, which I welcome.
'There is also better treatment becoming available fast, which I have called for, looking set to help a higher number of people next year than before.
'Many like Annie felt that the matter had dragged on too long and that, tragically, more victims may pass away before it was settled.
'It is now settled and I believe it will give good support in practice to the small number of constituents affected, while in principle putting right a terrible wrong in our country's medical history.'