UK

Government urged to compensate infected blood victims in Budget

Campaigners have descended on parliament demanding quicker action on compensation.

Infected blood victims and campaigners protest on College Green in Westminster
Infected Blood campaigners Infected blood victims and campaigners protest on College Green in Westminster (Aaron Chown/PA)

Victims of the infected blood scandal have implored the Chancellor to recognise their suffering by setting out a compensation scheme for those affected in next week’s Budget.

Campaigners staged a demonstration in Westminster on Wednesday calling for urgent action on compensation payments.

The Infected Blood Inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff, which is due to publish its final report in May, made its final recommendations on compensation for victims and their loved ones in April 2023.

The Government has previously been accused of dragging its feet over compensation and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was heckled when he appeared before the inquiry last year as he vowed to pay compensation “as swiftly as possible”.

Claire Dixon, whose mother Nora Worthington was infected with HIV in 1991, said her mother urged her to keep up the fight for recognition before her death in 1993.

“Before she passed away she said, ‘Please don’t let them get away with it’,” said Ms Dixon, 52, from Manchester.

Speaking from College Green in Westminster, she said: “My mother was given three pints of blood for a perforated ulcer, one of the pints was infected with HIV.”

“For me personally, it is about the recognition. It isn’t about the money. No amount of money could ever bring my mother back.”

As a single parent, Mrs Worthington has not yet been recognised by the Government for compensation, Ms Dixon said.

She added: “My mother didn’t have a partner and her life has not been recognised.”

Infected blood victims and campaigners staged a demonstration in Westminster on Wednesday
Infected Blood inquiry Infected blood victims and campaigners staged a demonstration in Westminster on Wednesday (Aaron Chown/PA)

Sue Sparkes, 65, from Cardiff, said her husband, Les, who was a haemophiliac and infected with HIV and hepatitis C, died in 1990.

“I was left widowed at 31 with two young children,” she said.

“(The Government) keep on saying they are waiting for the report, we don’t need to wait for the report. They are trying their best not to pay.”

“It’s the worst tragedy in the history of the NHS.”

A number of MPs joined the group to support their calls for compensation.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer met with victims inside Westminster Hall.

Dame Diana Johnson, co-chair of the all party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, told the PA news agency: “I don’t know why the Government isn’t acting on that in a quick way, why they haven’t started to pay compensation, and why we are still having to fight now.

“I don’t know what’s holding them up. I assume that it’s a lot of money that may have to be paid out so that’s probably causing some reluctance in the Treasury.”

Thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Richard Angell, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The victims of this scandal have been waiting for justice for decades and shouldn’t be made to wait any longer, with 82 having died since the inquiry published its full and final recommendations on compensation in April 2023.”

Kate Burt, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: “It is sickening and cruel that five decades after our community was exposed to the horror of the contaminated blood scandal, we are still waiting for government to right that wrong and take responsibility for what happened.”

Rachel Halford, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, added: “The Government’s refusal to act is actively harming these people, people whose lives have already been devastated by infected blood. They deserve better than this.”

Campaigners have urged the Government to address compensation in next week’s Budget
Infected Blood inquiry Campaigners have urged the Government to address compensation in next week’s Budget (Aaron Chown/PA)

A Government spokesperson said: “This was an appalling tragedy, and our thoughts remain with all those impacted.

“We are clear that justice needs to be delivered for the victims and have already accepted the moral case for compensation.

“This covers a set of extremely complex issues, and it is right we fully consider the needs of the community and the far-reaching impact that this scandal has had on their lives.

“The Government intends to respond in full to Sir Brian’s recommendations for wider compensation following the publication of the inquiry’s final report.”