Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
Immediate interim payments should be made to more victims of the infected blood scandal, inquiry chairman says
The parents, children, siblings and friends of thousands of people infected with HIV and hepatitis in the contaminated blood scandal should be eligible for compensation, an inquiry has ruled, with the payout likely to be the one of the largest in British history.
Immediate “interim” payments of £100,000 should be made to bereaved parents, children or siblings of those who died without a spouse or partner, a former High Court judge has said, widening the pool of those eligible for compensation.
The inquiry’s interim report said that the compensation system should draw inspiration from the $7bn scheme set up for victims and families of those killed and injured in the US 9/11 attacks in 2001, which took just three months to set up and proved a “notable success”.
Those “infected and affected” by the scandal should be compensated not only for the physical and emotional harm they suffered as a result of their infection, but also for the “wrongs done” by government and health officials whose response led to “decades-long delay” in supporting victims and their families.
Between 1970 and 1991, more than 1,300 people were infected with HIV through contaminated haemophilia treatments and blood transfusions and about 30,000 people were infected with hepatitis C.
More than 3,000 people died as a result in what was described by chairman of the infected blood inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, as “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.”
The government has paid £400m in the past year in £100,000 “interim” compensation payments to about 4,000 people, including those living with infections and bereaved partners of those who died.
Further £100,000 interim payments should now be made in cases where an infected person died without a partner, with payments made to bereaved parents, children or siblings, Brian Langstaff has ruled. It is the first time that family members beyond partners have been told they would receive compensation.
The final compensation scheme will allow partners, parents, children, siblings and carers to make separate claims based on the impact the infection had on their own lives, on top of any payment that could be made to the infected person themselves.
It is thought that members of more than 8,000 families could be eligible for compensation. Payouts will fall into banded “categories of loss” to speed up the process. The bands and amounts have not been decided.
Also eligible will be more distant relatives or “friends of an eligible living or deceased person whose relationship with them was so close that it could reasonably be expected that their mental or physical health would be seriously affected by the consequences of the disease.”
A lawyer representing 1,500 victims, Des Collins, says the final payout is likely to run “to billions.”
The inquiry’s final report is not due until the autumn, but an interim report on compensation has been produced to accelerate the process, because people are dying as a result of their infections and cannot afford to wait.
Brian Langstaff said: “I could not in conscience add to the decades-long delays many of you have already experienced due to failures to recognise the depth of your losses.” He said many of those infected were still living “on borrowed time.”
He also called for “specialist psychological support” in England for infected people and their families, as is available in the rest of the UK. He said a report into the impact of children orphaned by the scandal found that “the death of parents as a consequence of infected blood and blood products has significantly devastated a generation of children who they left behind.”
He said his final report would go into more detail about the failures that led to the scandal, but said as an initial assessment: “My conclusion is that wrongs were done at the individual, collective and systemic levels.”
Brian Langstaff added that people should be compensated for the “wrongs done by authority, whose response served to compound people’s suffering”. He said that those who contracted serious hepatitis B infections should be compensated, as well as those infected with HIV and hepatitis C.
The government has accepted that there is a “moral case” for paying compensation and started making interim payments.
Chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, Kate Burt, said: “After decades of delay and denial by successive governments, today’s report has exposed the unparalleled scale of suffering and loss endured as a result of the contaminated blood scandal.
“The case for swift and meaningful compensation is now beyond doubt and we welcome the recommendation that everyone, including bereaved parents and children, should receive compensation as soon as possible.”
A government spokesman said: “The infected blood scandal should never have happened. We thank the chair and the inquiry team for this detailed interim report and the government is continuing preparations for responding to the final report when it is published.