Government rejects immediate compensation calls even though “one contaminated blood victim is dying every four days”
- Credit: Archant
Blood contamination campaigner describes government meeting as “complete farce”.
Calls for immediate compensation for victims and families of the contaminated blood scandal have been rejected by Government ministers.
A meeting, attended by campaigners and some survivors, was held at the Cabinet Office, in London, on January 29, but some of those who were invited to speak were allowed only minutes to make their case.
Jason Evans, founder of the Factor 8 campaign group, along with a number of those infected and affected met with Oliver Dowden, Cabinet Office minister, and health minister Nadine Dorries to ask for a Government commitment to start working on compensation framework similar to that which has long existed in the Republic of Ireland.
The proposal put forward by Factor 8 was rejected and campaigners were told there was no new money available.
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Speaking after the meeting, Mr Evans said: "Bearing in mind that one victim is dying every four days, we saw it as prudent to seek from the Government a commitment to begin working with us now, rather than after the inquiry, on a framework for compensation similar to that which has existed in the Republic of Ireland for almost 20 years."
There are estimated to be between 5,000 and 7,000 people still alive who acquired viral infections through blood products from the health service in the 1970s and 1980s. Many are haemophiliacs who need regular transfusions to help their blood clot and they now have HIV, hepatitis C and other conditions from contaminated blood which had been obtained from prisoners and drug addicts in the US who were paid for their donations.
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St Neots man, Tony Farrugia, whose father Barry died in 1986 after being infected with hepatitis and HIV from contaminated Factor VIII products, is angry after being allocated just two minutes to speak to at the meeting.
"It was an absolute farce," he said.
"It was disgraceful. Neither of the ministers were properly briefed and being allowed only a few minutes to talk was insulting. I feel truly deflated, I built up my hopes and then they kicked us in the teeth."
Mr Farrugia, who spoke at the Infected Blood Inquiry, being led by Sir Brian Langstaff, had said he will not be attending any more Cabinet Office meetings.
The next session of the inquiry is on February 24 and will be hearing evidence from experts. It does not have the power to make compensation awards.
Des Collins, a partner at Collins Solicitors which is representing more than 1,400 people at the inquiry, said: "The government is being intransigent. The Cabinet Office have said their hands are tied in relation to the issue of paying compensation because of the ongoing public inquiry.
"This couldn't be further from the truth. The inquiry cannot determine civil or criminal liability - nor can it award compensation.
"This meeting today would have been a good opportunity to agree to settle the (concurrent, but currently stayed group litigation) and to start a serious discussion around compensation.
"The government has admitted liability at previous inquiries and paid compensation while allowing the inquiry to get to the bottom of why this scandal happened, who was responsible and to help make sure this type of thing never happens again."
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The infected blood scandal should never have happened and we established this inquiry so that all those who suffered can get the answers they deserve.
"Ministers from the Cabinet Office and Department for Health and Social Care met with groups representing those infected and affected by this tragedy. Campaigners raised a number of issues about the support that would assist them outside of the inquiry process. Ministers have committed to looking at these issues carefully and to report back on where rapid progress can be made."