Compensation scheme for infected blood scandal victims is set to start soon

Compensation scheme for infected blood scandal victims is set to start soon

After around 50 years and 3,000 deaths, a compensation scheme for infected blood scandal victims is set to start soon.

Around 30,000 people became severely ill after being given factor VIII blood products contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C imported from the US in the 1970s and 80s. Others were exposed to tainted blood through transfusions or after childbirth.

On average one person dies every four days, with approximately 3,000 haemophiliacs having died to date.

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In 2021, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised that the government would pay compensation to people infected by contaminated blood products – and their families – if a public inquiry into the scandal demanded it.

This Writer didn’t believe him – after nearly 50 years, it becomes hard to believe any government will do anything other than delay compensation to people it has wronged.

But in November 2022, made the first interim payments of £100,000 each to around 4,000 surviving victims and bereaved partners.

That was five or six months before the chair of the ongoing public inquiry into the scandal, Sir Brian Langstaff, called for a full compensation scheme to be set up immediately (April 2023). He also recommended that interim payments should be extended to some of the children and parents of those who had died.

The inquiry has been running since 2018 and is expected to publish its final report and recommendations on May 20.

The government has tried to wriggle out of any commitments; in December 2023, opposition MPs and Conservative rebels forced through a key vote in the Commons designed to speed up the creation of a new body to administer and run the scheme. This was the first parliamentary defeat for Rishi Sunak as prime minister.

The government went on to propose amendments to the law in the House of Lords – but, faced with another defeat, agreed that the final compensation scheme should be put in place within three months of the current Victims and Prisoners Bill passing into law.

The Bill aims to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and “major incidents”.

No guarantees

So the compensation scheme for infected blood scandal victims is set to start soon – right?

Well, maybe.

There are still a couple of hurdles that could stop it in its tracks.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill must be enacted into law for its provisions to become legal requirements – but Parliament will rise for the summer recess at the end of July, and is expected to be dissolved in the autumn when the general election is expected to take place.

So if the government wants to torpedo the compensation scheme, all it needs to do is delay the final vote on this Bill until after the end of July.

The inquiry’s recommendations will still have been made, but it would then be up to the new government – Tory, Labour or whatever – to launch new legislation to accommodate it.

And that could take some time – despite claims by deputy Lords leader Earl Howe that victims had already waited “far too long for justice”.

And remember: one of those victims dies every four days.

The clock is ticking – and each passing second only confirms the widespread belief that governments would rather wait for victims of their mistakes to die than pay them any compensation.


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