Delay on contaminated blood causing ‘endless pain’ for victims
Writing ahead of her debate today, the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie explains to PoliticsHome why government procrastination on contaminated blood products is keeping victims in pain.
I tabled this debate to highlight the cause of victims of contaminated blood and blood products, and in particular my local constituent, Brian Carberry, a haemophiliac from Downpatrick in South Down who have all waited too long for truth and an acknowledgement that the British Government through the Department of Health imported such contaminated blood products from the United States of America in 1970s and 1980s; for proper compensation and access to drugs which are currently being assessed by the National Institute of Clinical Guidance before stage 2 of the illness kicks in.
I hope that the Health Secretary can provide a detailed outline of how he will address this issue once and for all. 2000 people who were touched by this tragedy have already died, and the number rises as people die waiting for the Government to bring this to a close. I am urging the Secretary of State for Health today to bring this prolonged delay to an abrupt close with a programme of action including a commencement date for the consultation, and monies to help those who have endured endless pain, suffering and anxiety for so many years.
In the 1970s and 80s, around 7500 people were infected with Hepatitis C or HIV as a result of treatment with blood products provided by the NHS. Many of these people were being treated for haemophilia. These viruses didn’t just transform the lives of the people infected: their families’ lives were also turned upside turn. Some of them, including Brian, have been unable to work and they have been denied the real financial security and health and social care that they need.
The support currently in place is only partial and does not offer the full and final settlement that those affected and their families need to live with dignity. Support, financial and otherwise, over the years has been haphazard and has been delivered much too slowly.
Promises of a consultation on the nature and type of compensation of victims have been announced but, so far, neither Parliament, nor the wider public including the victims have not been informed when this consultation will begin. Still, the victims from contaminated blood products suffer whilst the Government continues to procrastinate on this issue.
They need an acknowledgement of liability and they need a sum of money that will enable them to live independently and with dignity. This should also apply to the families whose lives were turned upside down because of this and who have been left with nothing following the death of the family member who contracted these viruses. It is worth noting that the Irish Government admitted liability some years ago for the importation of infected bloods from the United States of America. However, despite a legal judgement in the UK indicating that the Department of Health has responsibility, the British Government has simply provided fine words, but no final compensation or truth about what actually happened.
A public apology came from the Prime Minister decades later, only several months ago. No one wants to go to these Trusts with a begging bowl any longer; they want a full and final settlement; an acknowledgement of liability and a sum of money that will enable them to live independently without having to beg for money. The Prime Minister on the 25th March at Prime Minister’s Question Time seemed to be promising a full and final settlement. The Government now needs to honour that pledge and not just reform a payment system that is not fit for purpose.