Victims of the contaminated blood scandal must wait at least a year for proper compensation
- Credit: Archant
Victims of a contaminated blood scandal fear a promise by prime minister David Cameron to provide acceptable compensation will take more than a year to be realised.
Thousands were given contaminated blood products by the NHS in a scandal which has killed at least 2,000 people, and left many more suffering serious health conditions, such as hepatitis C (hep C) or HIV.
In what has been described as one of the NHS's worst scandals, blood products made from high risk donors, such as drug addicts, prisoners, and prostitutes were given to patients around the world. But while other countries such as Ireland offered significant sums to victims, the UK is yet to make a satisfactory settlement.
Earlier this year, victims from the region were hopeful for such a settlement after Mr Cameron announced he would treat it as a matter of urgency and promised £25 million to 'ease transition' to a reformed support system.
In July, however, it was announced no decisions on spending would be taken until the autumn Spending Review, on Wednesday, but now it is believed to be very unlikely an announcement will come before Christmas – and possibly even well into the new year.
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Annie Walker, 61, of Mousehold House, Norwich, who contracted hep C from blood transfusions following an operation at the age of 19, said they have been warned to expect further delays.
She said: 'Once again Cameron has let us down and I'm left wondering if he actually doesn't care.
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'I got cancer because of the hep C and next week I'm being tested to see if it has come back. It could be too late for me and the other sufferers.'
Although there has been no indication of what the next financial announcement will be, campaigners are growing concerned it will fall short of their hopes, having seen similar schemes taking shape in Scotland.
Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, said she believed more would become clear after this week's Spending Review.
She added: 'This is a huge mistake on a national scale and must be settled. I will continue to put pressure on ministers to see that it is.'
A Department of Health spokesman said: 'Reforming the current payment schemes for those affected remains a priority – we are absolutely determined to get this right and will finalise proposals after a full public consultation, which will be publicly announced after the Spending Review.' The Department of Health has twice refused our Freedom of Information request to release copies of correspondence between the prime minister, MPs and staff on the issue. Its response to our appeal of the first refusal said: 'If ministers and officials worked under the assumption that all of their communications were accessible under FOI then it is likely to have a profound chilling effect upon frank and open communication between ministers and civil servants as well as on the full and accurate recording of that communication.'
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An investigation earlier this year revealed the many ways victims of the scandal continue to be let down, decades on from the tragedy being first revealed.
Those affected from the region include:
Steve Sillett, of St Paul's Close, Brockdish, on the Suffolk and Norfolk border, who was infected with the hepatitis C virus.
We told how the 57-year-old, infected when receiving treatment for haemophilia, had contracted liver cancer and been given just a few months to live.
Fortunately, a donor was found for the lorry driver and a successful transplant earlier this year meant he was clear not only of the cancer, but the haemophilia too. However, he and his wife Di were recently rocked by the news that a blood clot in the main artery of his new liver has been discovered, meaning he has to go through the ordeal once again.
Michael Colyer, who lives in Barford with his wife Helen, suffers from mild haemophilia but found out 20 years ago he had contracted hep C.
Jill Sutton, 58, of Newton Flotman, lost her father Peter Sutton, a Costessey postman, in 1993, aged 64, from liver failure. It was only afterwards that a post-mortem examination discovered he had hep C.
'Simon', a married father-of-five from Norwich, who was being denied a breakthrough drug called Sofosbuvir, even though it was approved by drugs regulator NICE as a potentially effective drug to rid sufferers of hep C.
Campaigners' key objectives include:
- Removing 'staged' payments for hepatitis C sufferers, handed out depending on the progression of their illness. This sees some receive nothing under a system that has been described as 'discriminatory'.
- A proper financial payment for widows and bereaved family members.
- Financial support for the wives, husbands and carers of those still living.
- Full access to the latest drugs and treatments for those affected.
Glenn Wilkinson, of Contaminated Blood Campaign, said: 'The point is, we don't want to keep fighting, we want to put this to bed and get on with what remains of the rest of our lives.'