Former health minister admits making mistake over contaminated blood, calls for scandal to be treated like banking collapse or natural disaster

Alistair Burt PA Wire

Alistair Burt PA Wire - Credit: PA

A former health minister has called for the government to treat the contaminated blood scandal like a natural disaster or banking collapse as he admitted making a mistake in thinking the government had 'solved the problem'.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate this afternoon, Alistair Burt, who left the government when Theresa May became Prime Minister over the summer, said he had not 'fully grasped the detail' when he had sat on the front bench as proposals were unveiled.

He said the 'drip drip' approach to looking after victims of the scandal was not working, and that money could be found at various times for big affairs such as natural disasters, dramatic crisis and a banking collapse.

'We have not been able to give this issue the same priority, and it cries out for it,' he added.

Health service failings in the 1970s and 1980s saw hundreds of people infected with hepatitis C and HIV.

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The Government set out plans earlier this year for a reformed system of support which will see every victim receive a regular annual payment for the first time. At least 2,000 people have died after being infected with HIV and hepatitis C by blood products used by the NHS up until 1991, some sourced from risky donors such as prisoners and drug addicts.

Norwich victim Annie Walker who was mistakenly given contaminated blood by the NHS in the 1970s died in March after the infection caused ­cirrhosis of her liver, which led to cancer. She was never given compensation.

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And there are fears from some victims that they could be left worse off as a result of reforms.

MP campaigners also called today for the government to abandon plans to outsource the support scheme to a private company.

But health minister Nicola Blackwood the government intended to issue the invitation to tender shortly, adding that she believed the 'concerns about trust and the history of this situation will be well understood by all those involved in the design.'

Mr Burt said it was important to have some 'sensitivity' that the 'profit motive' in the United States in selling the blood in the first place was the 'primary source of everything that flowed since'.

He said it was important to have 'democratic accountability' and a group which would act on behalf of the victims and not just in the government's interest.

He also called for a small amount of money to be made available for people whose agony could not be recognised by the scheme, such as the case of two boys who lost their father and two uncles who were taken into care.

He also backed calls fro the public inquiry following comments by another former health secretary - Lord Owen - that he believed ministerial documents had been scrapped. 'It cannot be the case we have this major issue, with people knowing something went wrong and there is not that public space for people affected to know.'

Prime Minister Theresa May said she would consider setting up a Hillsborough-style independent panel to shed light on the NHS scandal during prime minister's questions earlier this year.

In Scotland victims receive the annual average income of £27,000 a year – but in England the same victims will get as little as £3,500 annually.

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