Blood scandal victim in 'constant pain' as he fights for help paying dentists
- Credit: Archant / Phil Wellman
A victim of the contaminated blood scandal is living in "blinding pain" and concerned he is becoming addicted to painkillers as he fights for financial support for dental work.
Phil Wellman, 75, contracted hepatitis C in the 1970s when he received a tainted blood transfusion after a motoring accident.
In the decades since then he has suffered constant health problems, and most recently been beset by issues with his teeth. Numerous teeth have become rotten, others are now simply nubs, and he needs significant dental reconstruction work.
He told this newspaper he is in constant pain.
Tooth decay and other oral health problems, including mouth cancer, can be connected to hepatitis C, according to academic literature, such as the Australian Dental Journal and the Journal of Immunological Research.
While Samantha May, the Hepatitis C Trust's helpline information and support service manager said dental issues are often raised by sufferers.
Phil, who lives in France, has been told by two dentists there that the extensive work he requires could cost up to €4,000.
But he has been told to rely on a £282.80 annual discretionary payment and wait for EIBSS bosses and the Department of Health and Social Care to make a decision about his application.
"It's outrageous. They are saying they want proof it's related to the hepatitis - of course it is," he said.
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"I have been down this road before. Basically, they're not going to give me that money by the sound of it. They are doing what they want to. They are full of rubbish.
"I've been messed around all the time."
He said his physical symptoms are making his life almost unliveable and he is concerned about becoming addicted to painkillers.
"I feel like I am turning into a junkie," he said. "I can't eat food, I'm living on soup. They are at it again, there are no lessons learned."
A spokesperson for the EIBSS, which is administered by the NHS's Business Services Authority, said: “We are sorry that Mr Wellman is experiencing dental problems and for any distress this has caused."
They said monthly payments to infected blood victims are paid, and a range of "discretionary one-off payments" - including £282.80 a year for dental treatment - are available.
Mr Wellman was told, first on April 9: "We will arrange for this to be reviewed with other feedback points raised by beneficiaries and once we have a response, we will let you know as soon as possible."
He was then told, on April 29: "Your request for a further discretionary payment towards dental treatment was discussed and your case has been deferred to be looked into further.
"Your case will be reviewed again at the next meeting, which is yet to be scheduled."
The spokesperson said Phil's application had been "urgently reviewed", adding: "Our independent medical assessors will need to assess dental records to identify if the dental issues Mr Wellman is suffering from are due to the hepatitis C infection.
"We require evidence that Mr Wellman’s oral health has been fully considered and that the proposed treatment will provide a long-term solution for the dental issues he is suffering from."
They said EIBSS would be contacting Phil to discuss the "specific evidence we require to confirm the proposed treatment is the most appropriate solution".
They said a completed application form had not yet been received despite requests, after Phil sent quotes from two dentists in a letter on March 8.
Like many others who have been infected with contaminated blood, he has previously criticised the hoops those who have suffered over the decades have had to jump through to receive financial assistance.
Phil was in a car crash in the early 1970s and became one of more than 5,000 given “killer blood” transfusions by the NHS. Along with other groups - most notably haemophiliacs who were given a treatment containing viruses - he has been fighting for justice since discovering the truth of what happened to him.
He lived in Belsize Grove and Gospel Oak before returning to live in France.
This week has seen the health ministers of the four UK countries - including Matt Hancock - give evidence to the ongoing Infected Blood Inquiry.
Earlier this year, Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt announced a "review" looking into delivering compensation to victims of the scandal and their families.