Infected blood scandal: Government 'working at snail's pace' over compensation

The government's handling of compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal has been criticised for treating the families involved 'with contempt' - ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

The government has been "working at a snail's pace" on the infected blood scandal and "will be on the wrong side of history" for holding out against a new compensation body, it has been claimed.

Clive Smith, chairman of the Haemophilia Society, said that an extended compensation scheme for victims and their families could have been set up by the end of this year with "political will".

But so far campaigners have only received "warm words", he added.

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

Thousands of patients were given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. Credit: PA

Meanwhile the charity's chief executive, Kate Burt, said that the government's "delaying tactics denigrate the community that have suffered so much over such a long period of time".

In April, chairman of the inquiry into the scandal Sir Brian Langstaff, said that more people who lost loved ones during the "biggest treatment disaster in the NHS" should be entitled to compensation.

Under the initial scheme, only victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment.

But Sir Brian said that family members - including parents who lost children and children orphaned when their parents died - remain "unrecognised" when it comes to compensation.

He made the comments ahead of the publication of the final report of the Infected Blood Inquiry, with Sir Brian saying he felt compelled to act so that victims would not face any more delays.

The government, however, said that it wanted to wait for the full report - which is expected next spring - into the scandal before considering whether to extend the compensation scheme.

But on Monday, MPs voted to speed up compensation for victims, with the ballot representing the first defeat Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has had in the Commons.

A total of 22 Conservative MPs rebelled to support a Labour-led amendment requiring ministers to establish a body to administer the full compensation scheme within three months of the Victims and Prisoners Bill becoming law.

Downing Street would not confirm whether the government would honour the Commons vote on infected blood compensation, saying there would be an update in the coming weeks.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "We will update on next steps and the government's work on the inquiry in the coming weeks."

He added: "First and foremost, we have accepted the moral case for compensation and acknowledge justice needs to be delivered for victims.

"This was an appalling tragedy. We certainly understand the strength of feeling."

Rishi Sunak was defeated for the first time as prime minister in the Commons on Monday. Credit: PA

Commenting on the vote, Mr Smith told the Today programme: "This has never been about politics. This has always been about justice and doing the right thing, and no government should hold out on this.

"They've been told by the chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry Sir Brian Langstaff that with political will this should have been set up by the end of the year, and all we've heard consistently from government is warm words.

"We keep hearing the refrain 'we're working at pace'. The only conclusion we can come to is they are working at snail’s pace.

"They have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do this, and Rishi Sunak and the Tory Party, I'm afraid, will be on the wrong side of history and future because it shouldn't have needed to come to this."

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