Dying Norwich woman’s plea over blood contamination

A Norwich woman who is dying of end stage liver disease after her blood was contaminated with Hepatitis C has criticised the government for failing to announce the findings of a review into financial support and care by the end of the year.

Annie Walker is one of thousands of patients contaminated with either Hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s by blood supplied by the NHS.

The disease has been silently eroding her liver since she had a blood transfusion during emergency surgery 30 years ago.

Since the 56-year-old discovered her illness eight years ago, the former UEA student who now lives in the Mousehold area of Norwich had joined the call for proper compensation, treatment and recognition from the government.

She is now urging the government to report the findings of the latest review into the financial support and care for patients affected by the contamination scandal.

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Today Department of Health under secretary Anne Milton said she had expected to be able to report the findings of the review by the end of 2010. But, she said: 'The review has been completed and submitted to ministers and I will update the House early in January when I publish the report.'

Ms Walker today spoke of her anger that the report had not been returned by the end of the year as promised.

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'To them it is only a month,' she said. 'But to us, we were looking forward to Christmas knowing at least we had some sort of recognition and understanding. We are not even being treated nicely. We just have to have our Christmas in poverty.'

Last year an inquiry funded from private donations called for reform of financial and other support for those affected, but it was rejected by both the previous government and the coalition.

In October the government said it would review the ex-gratia payments for those suffering from Hepatitis C, including financial support for their spouses and dependants, the way they are paid, access to insurance, help with prescription charges and their access to nursing and other care services in the community.

They said the review would be complete by Christmas.

Ms Walker said more money would give her a better standard of living,

'Now I have to live on benefits and disability living allowance. This review was looking to give us some money to help us live so we do not have to live on benefits.

'All I've got to look forward to is things getting worse and worse and worse. I am looking at a death sentence: it's a fatal disease.'

'It was about eight years ago that I went for the test. I had several part-time jobs at the time and I knew there was something wrong.'

She said she was shocked when she found out she had the disease. 'I thought it was only something you got if you had used drugs.'

'I have been campaigning for so long. I was hoping this Christmas would get some kind of dignity back in our lives.'

Throughout her career Ms Walker worked as a political researcher in London and taught literacy in prison. She also worked at City Hall in Norwich and she used to make stained glass.

She was about to set up her own business when she found out she had been contaminated decades earlier.

'I cannot do anything now. I am so ill. I spend most of my time in bed.'

She spent five years having treatment for the liver disease.

'I tried it four times and each time the virus went only to come back again.

She said that the treatment was very intense and lasted from six months to a year.

'It is debilitating treatment which has quite long term effects on you. It makes you feel quite ill - but I've still got it.

'I cannot afford to do anything. I do not know how long I've got to live. I want my quality of life.

'There's no future, it is not as if I'm going to get better.'

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