No compensation for blood contamination victims: ‘How can we live on £15,000?’
PUBLISHED: 14:27 28 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:47 28 January 2016
People whose health has been ruined by deadly viruses from contaminated NHS blood say they will be left in even worse financial hardship under government plans to reform systems of support.
The lives of thousands were torn apart when they were infected with deadly HIV or hepatitis C (hep C) from blood products used by the NHS, including hundreds treated at the Royal Free Hospital’s haemophilia unit.
Many have lived in poverty for years as their health deteriorated and survived on meagre payments from a complex system of trusts set up by government.
Campaigners have fought fiercely for a proper system of compensation and support and last week the government announced a further £100million to help people affected by the blood tragedy.
But local victims have reacted angrily, saying they will be left worse off under the proposals.
Maria Fletcher, who was infected with hep C at University College Hospital and forced to give up a lucrative job due to ill health, said: “It’s absolutely disgusting, they haven’t offered us anything. Where is the compensation?”
Maria currently receives just over £14,000 a year in support. Under the proposed reforms this will be capped permanently at £15,000 and it will not rise with inflation.
“People can’t live on £15,000 a year, it’s a pittance,” she said.
“I’ve got liver cirrhosis and I will need more care as the years go on, my husband will need to look after me.
“They’re not treating us with respect. They need to compensate us for all the years we’ve suffered.”
Maria was among thousands infected when blood products, manufactured commercially and without safety checks, were used by the NHS up until 1991.
An estimated 2,000 have since died and the scandal has been described as the 15th largest peacetime disaster in British history.
Last Thursday’s announcement from the health minister Jane Ellison was the moment Maria and fellow campaigners hoped would bring an end to the indignity of assessments and charity handouts.
But while the extra funds, together with the offer of a 12-week consultation and pledges to find better treatments for those infected, was initially seen as progress, campaigners say key points have been missed. The offer does not include lump sum compensation as well as ongoing financial support, seen as integral to reform.
Colette Wintle was infected with hep C while undergoing treatment for the blood clotting disorder haemophilia at the Royal Free in the 1980s.
“The proposals are shocking and there is not a single person within the haemophilia community I’ve spoken to who will accept what they’re forcing on us,” she said.
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq called on the government to “act quickly to right past wrongs”.
She said “A number of Hampstead and Kilburn residents impacted by this tragedy have been in touch with me since the election.
“Patience is wearing thin, pessimism is running high and sadly many of those infected are no longer with us. I hope that the government’s new consultation will listen to their concerns.”