Thursday, October 21, 2010

No more help for bad blood victims

ANNE MILTON, Public Health Minister in the Con-Dem government, last week ruled out raising compensation levels for the victims of one of the worst scandals of the NHS.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the NHS purchased blood for transfusion from the United States without checking its origins. Much of it turned out to be contaminated with HIV and with hepatitis C
Almost 5,000 people contracted HIV and Hepatitis C after they were given contaminated blood products, which were given to patients suffering with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders.
An independent public inquiry into the matter was held in 2007, chaired by Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell. Lord Archer’s report called it a “horrific human tragedy”.
The independent inquiry was funded with private donations as successive governments rejected demands for a full inquiry.
The current scheme of pay-outs to victims is funded by private donations and charitable organisations.
While campaigners for proper compensation marched and lobbied outside Parliament Anna Milton ruled out a suggestion by a 2007 public inquiry to match those made in the Irish Republic.
Milton said she would look again at people infected with Hepatitis C.
Cardiff Central Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott said victims had deserved to have the recommendations “seriously considered”.
Milton was speaking in the first debate on private members’ Bills on a Bill sponsored by Pontypridd MP Owen Smith after the death of one of his constituents, Leigh Sugar.
Sugar, a 44-year-old haemophiliac, died in June of liver cancer caused by Hepatitis C he contracted through contaminated blood in the 1980s.
His family was among the campaigners in Parliament Square.
Milton told the Commons she would review the situation and report back by Christmas. She said she was “acutely aware that campaigners on this issue have been left hanging for far too long”.
Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, who opened the debate, described Milton’s statement as “useless”.
He urged ministers to meet victims, some of whom were watching the debate from the public gallery, to “see what reaction they get”.
“They want closure on it, they’re fed up with it...,” he said.
“This government had an opportunity to make a new start, to bring closure to this great human tragedy and they have refused to do so,” he said.
Jenny Willott said 1,200 people had been infected with HIV, 4,670 with Hepatitis C and more than 1,800 people had died.
She added: “Since it has taken over 20 years to have an inquiry I think the least the victims deserve is to have the recommendations seriously considered, even those which are expensive.”
Speaking before the debate Owen Smith said he hoped it would be the first step to a full inquiry and a UK government-backed compensation scheme.
Margaret Sugar, who was among the demonstrators outside, said: “As he [Leigh Sugar] got ill, the more sick he became, he said to my daughter-in-law this has got to come out. Nothing will bring my son back but what I want is justice.”
Leigh Sugar’s cousin, David Thomas, 39, was also infected with contaminated blood in the early 1980s and has liver problems caused by contracting Hepatitis C.
He said: “It beggars belief we received this through the NHS. Successive governments for the last 20 years have known about the Hepatitis C virus and its cause through the receipt of contaminated blood products and have dodged the issue but hopefully now it’s getting the airing it deserves.”

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