Government ‘betrayal’ of NHS blood disaster victims: ‘£18,500 for giving me Aids is an insult’
- Credit: Various
As one of his final acts as Prime Minister, David Cameron revealed how £125million will be spent to help people affected by the contaminated blood scandal. Investigations journalist EMMA YOULE finds out why the reforms have left victims of the NHS treatment disaster outraged
More than 30 years ago Mark Ward was told in a corridor at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead that he had been infected with the deadly HIV virus as a result of treatment with killer NHS blood products.
The former British Airways cabin attendant was 14 and the disease quickly developed into Aids.
Today the 47-year-old has denounced the government for offering a “paltry” £18,500 a year over the treatment disaster that ruined his health.
He said: “The prime minister wanted it to be seen that he was trying to sort this out before he went, but it’s another kick in the teeth for a dying community.”
Mark’s condemnation over the latest twist in the contaminated blood scandal has been echoed by others locally who were affected.
Nationwide thousands of people were infected with HIV or hepatitis C (hep C) in the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS and 2,000 have so far died.
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Today the Ham&High can reveal:
* David Cameron’s announcement of a new £125m payment scheme for victims of the blood scandal at his final Prime Minister’s Questions has been labelled a “rush job”.
* Campaigners say payments for English victims of the disaster nowhere near match those for Scottish victims of the tragedy.
* Widows of the dead have said a one-off payment of £10,000 is a “pittance for the loss of someone’s life”.
* Hampstead MP Tulip Siddiq has called for the new public health minister “to come to the House of Commons to explain the government’s position”.
Last week David Cameron revealed how £125million will be spent to support people affected by the contaminated blood scandal in an unexpected announcement during his last ever Prime Minister’s Questions.
He unveiled details of a new payments scheme for the thousands who were infected with hepatitis C (hep C) or HIV through treatment with NHS blood products that were riddled with deadly viruses.
But local victims of the disaster, including many haemophiliacs infected at a specialist treatment centre at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, have condemned the reforms describing them as “appalling, diabolical and shameful”.
Haemophiliac Colette Wintle, 56, infected with hep C at the Royal Free, said: “It’s an absolute insult, an utter insult to someone in my position whose health has been destroyed, whose liver has been destroyed, who faces a poor prognosis for the rest of my life. I’m appalled.”
Campaign groups have called the scheme “insulting and miserly” saying it compares unfavourably to arrangements for contaminated blood victims in Scotland.
Mark Ward, 47, who was infected with HIV and hep C at the Royal Free as a child of 14, said: “What’s so insulting about this is we’re not talking about a broken leg, my status is full-blown Aids.
“I’ve lived in fear of dying my entire life. Under the Scottish scheme I would be getting a £37,000 annual pension. But for living 30 years infected with Aids and hep C I get the paltry sum of £18,500.”
A new £10,000 one-off payment for widows of the dead was also described by Clair Walton, whose husband died of Aids, as “a pittance for the loss of someone’s life”.
At least 2,000 people have died and thousands more are ill after being infected by blood products used by the NHS up until 1991, some sourced from high risk donors such as prisoners and drug addicts in America.
Many were haemophiliacs who needed treatment to help their blood clot. Tragically this meant they were regularly exposed to blood products infected with the killer viruses.
Others who did not have haemophilia were infected through routine blood transfusions.
Mr Cameron said the new system of payments was “much fairer and more comprehensive”. In his speech he apologised for the scandal saying it “should never have happened”.
Hampstead and Kilburn MP, Tulip Siddiq said: “We need to see the detail before we can consider this a genuine move towards redress for the people affected. That is why I will be calling on the new public health minister to come to the House of Commons to explain the government’s position.”
CAMPAIGN GROUP TAINTED BLOOD: ‘WHY WE CONDEMN REFORMS’
Sue Threakall, of the campaign group Tainted Blood, explained why the reformed scheme is fundamentally unfair.
She said: “Having received reassurances that the government wanted to ‘get this right’, along with apparent commitment to our cause from the prime minister; we had hope that finally our campaigning could come to an end.
“However, despite all our efforts to co-operate with government, it is clear they have taken no notice whatsoever of our efforts.
“The new scheme outlined by the prime minister was clearly rushed through. It is lacking in substance, detail and clarification.
“Yet again we see gross underfunding, meaning that an inadequate amount of money is being spread out so thinly that some will now have no guaranteed income from the scheme.
“With huge, cross-party support from MPs, all our efforts have resulted in a pitiful outcome that is substantially inferior to the new support scheme announced for Scotland, which will provide some payments that are as much as £27,750 per annum higher.
“Tainted Blood is currently taking legal advice to see how best to proceed, but our hope is that the new prime minister, with her stated passion for social justice, will take urgent action to finally resolve this issue.”
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DEFENDS SCHEME
Officials at the Department of Health (DoH) defended the reformed payment scheme when contacted by the Ham&High this week.
A spokeswoman said: “We have committed over £125million in additional funding to the reformed scheme. This will more than double the department’s annual spend over the next five years.”
The three charities that currently administer payments receive an annual budget of around £4million. And according to the government there are 3,700 infected with hepatitis C (hep C), 80 with HIV, and 300 with both HIV and hep C.
At these figures the £125m cash for the new scheme equates to a total of £30,637 of newly allocated money for each infected person.
THE VIEWS OF LOCAL VICTIMS
MARIA FLETCHER Infected with hep C at University College Hospital.
“It’s an insult, an absolute rush job. An extra £21 a month and that’s the price of the cross we have to bear. It’s a kick in the face.”
Payments now: £14,729 a year
New scheme: £15,500 a year
MARK WARD Haemophiliac infected with HIV and hep C at the Royal Free Hospital.
“I’ve lived in fear of dying my entire life and the paltry sum of £18,500 is supposed to make up for that, 30 years of fear and stigma.”
Payments now: £14,821 a year
New scheme: £18,500 a year
NICK HIRSCH Haemophiliac from Highgate, died from hep C aged 36 in 2012 leaving behind a child and partner.
His mother Della Hirsch: “The offers made are so minimal as to be laughable. They killed these people even though there was a knowledge that something was wrong.”
New scheme: Nick’s partner should be eligible for the £10,000 widow’s payment
CLAIR WALTON Formerly of Crouch End, infected with HIV by her late husband who was a haemophiliac
“I am disappointed that the announcement has made the situation worse for those of us contaminated with HIV.”
Payments now: £19,000 a year including discretionary payments
New scheme: £15,500 a year
PHIL WELLMAN of Hampstead, infected with hep C by blood transfusion following a car accident
“It’s diabolical. Cameron knew that £125m spread over 4,000 infected people is nothing for what they did to us.”
Payments now: £1,992 a year
New scheme: £3,500 a year
COLETTE WINTLE Haemophiliac infected with hep C at the Royal Free Hospital
“The government has insulted people by destroying their health and not holding their hands up to admit liability. I do feel deeply aggrieved.”
Payments now: £14,400 a year
New scheme: £15,500 a year
* Do you have a story for the investigations unit? Contact journalist Emma Youle on 020 7433 0122 or firstname.lastname@example.org