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Contaminated blood interim awards.



Partners, children, siblings and parents of patients infected in the NHS contaminated blood scandal are anxiously waiting to discover if they will be eligible for compensation.

Although the government has confirmed that around 4,000 UK victims of the infected blood scandal will each receive interim compensation of £100,000, final recommendations covering a wider group of those affected are not expected until the public enquiry ends next year.

The initial payments will be the first after decades of campaigning following the NHS giving patients contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s in what has been described as the biggest negligence scandal in its history. The payments will be made by the end of October in England. People living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also receive the money.

Compensation, being paid this autumn will be tax-free and not affect existing support payments. It be given to people whose health is failing after developing blood-borne viruses, such as hepatitis and HIV, as well as partners of people who have died.

Chair of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, Baroness Julia Cumberlege, is among those who have called for the compensation to be extended to support a wider group of people affected.

Among these is Rosemary Calder, whose 25-year-old son Nicky died with HIV in 1999 after being given an infected blood product to treat haemophilia.

Mrs Calder, 74, whose family moved from north London to Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire after her son was called 'Aids boy' at school, said: 'Again, parents and children who have lost loved ones are just ignored. The parents feel so disheartened and despondent that they can't get recognition. It's not about money; it's about the lives of their children.

'So many parents suffered financially because they had to give up work, had to move house because of the stigma. People lost their jobs. All this has never been acknowledged. The interim compensation is a step in the right direction but there's a long way to go.'

Jason Evans, of campaign group Factor 8, accused officials of “doing nothing to help most families” by only making immediate payouts to surviving partners, excluding those who lost both parents, or whose young children died.

He said: “The message is that for most families right now they deserve nothing. My heart goes out to most families who will receive no acknowledgement and will be deeply distressed by this announcement.”

Chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, Kate Burt, said: “Finally, after nearly five decades, the Government has accepted it must pay compensation to those infected as a result of the contaminated blood scandal.

“However, the majority of the bereaved, including parents and the children of those who died, will receive nothing. Steps must now be taken to set up a workable scheme which can deliver full compensation quickly and fairly to all those who suffered devastating loss because of this NHS treatment disaster.”

Confirmation of the initial payments comes after the chair of the public enquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, said there was a compelling case to make payments quickly as some victims were on borrowed time because of failing health.

Many victims and families already get financial support payments which, for some, total tens of thousands of pounds, but this is the first time the government has agreed to pay compensation for difficulties such as loss of earnings and care costs.

Thousands of NHS patients with haemophilia and other blood disorders became seriously ill after being given a new treatment called factor VIII or IX from the mid-1970s onwards.

At the time the medication was imported from the US where it was made from the pooled blood plasma of thousands of paid donors, including some in high-risk groups, such as prisoners. If a single donor was infected with a blood-borne virus, such as hepatitis or HIV, then the whole batch of medication could be contaminated.

An unknown number of UK patients were also exposed to hepatitis B or C through a blood transfusion after childbirth or hospital surgery. At least 2,400 people died after contracting HIV or hepatitis C through NHS treatments in the 1970s and 80s.

The government has already introduced a number of schemes offering victims financial support since the disaster was first identified without any admission of liability but, unlike in the Republic of Ireland and some other countries, compensation has never been paid to individuals or families affected.

An independent study commissioned by the government, said victims should eventually be compensated for physical and social injury, the stigma of the disease, the impact on family and work life, and the cost of care.

The study also recommended that partners, children, siblings and parents of those who had been infected should also be eligible for payments.

If the enquiry and the government accept those proposals the final compensation payments could top £1bn.

People receiving interim compensation payments are those already registered for financial support payments, but campaigners say there could be tens of thousands of others who have not yet come forward.