MPs back fight to support victims of contaminated blood scandal
- Credit: Polly Hancock
MPs have backed the fight for proper compensation and support for victims of one of the biggest treatment disasters in the history of the NHS.
During a backbench debate yesterday, MPs from all political parties called on the government to take seriously the concerns of those who were infected with fatal viruses by the NHS.
Some 6,000 people, including victims from Norfolk, contracted HIV or hepatitis C from infected blood products used by the NHS up until 1991. More than 2,000 have so far lost their lives.
A government consultation is currently under way looking at how 'unfit for purpose' systems of support for victims can be reformed.
But it has been widely criticised amid claims that most victims will be left financially worse-off under the changes and hundreds protested outside Parliament before the debate in a visible display of opposition yesterday.
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Backbench MPs called for the victims' demands to be acknowledged.
Diana Johnson MP, co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia & Contaminated Blood, said: 'We know that these people were damaged and harmed by the treatment they received from the NHS – by the state.
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'What we need to do now is put together a proper support package to ensure that those affected and their families are at the heart of what we do and whatever scheme is proposed.'
A large crowd of victims and families of the dead protested outside Parliament waving placards declaring 'Sentenced to death' and '2,000 dead, who cares?'.
A hearse also circled Parliament Square to commemorate those who had already lost their lives.
Norwich man Steve Bartram, who was infected with Hep C aged seven, said: 'Everyone is angry. They're taking money away from us and people are dying. How is that helping people?'
The government's current proposals include no lump sum payment for victims and reduced annual payments for many whose health has been ruined by the viruses they contracted.
Victims have also demanded an end to a complex system of charitable funds currently used to administer payouts and insisted that widows and children of the dead should be included in any settlement.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith urged health minister Jane Ellison to 'do everything she could to put right this historical wrong'.
She said: 'I urge her to stick to her guns and make future payments simpler and more dignified, rather than people having to go cap in hand to a motley collection of charitable funds.'
Ms Ellison said she was unable to comment on the consultation, which ends on Friday, while it was still in progress.
But she assured MPs that every single one of the 1,200 responses received so far would be individually read and considered.
'This is a genuinely open consultation and I urge everyone who is interested to respond. I hope to take things forward in an open and honest way,' she said.