All 'infected or affected' by contaminated blood scandal to receive compensation by end of year

The government have outlined details on the compensation scheme today, as ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston reports

Words by Elisa Menendez, Westminster Producer

All "infected or affected" by the contaminated blood scandal will receive compensation before the end of the year, the government has confirmed.

Further interim payments of £210,000 for the most urgent cases will be made within 90 days, Paymaster General John Glen has said, as he recognised "time is of the essence" with members of the infected blood community dying each week.

Mr Glen told the Commons the Infected Blood Compensation Authority will be established to simplify payments into five main categories: injury, social impact, autonomy, care and financial loss.

It was not made clear exactly how much will be paid but Mr Glen reiterated: “As the prime minister made clear yesterday, there is no restriction on the budget. Where we need to pay, we will pay."

More than 30,000 people were infected with deadly viruses between the 1970s and early 1990s as they received blood transfusions or blood products while receiving NHS care.

He began his statement to the Commons by apologising again to the tens of thousands of victims and bereaved families affected by the "worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".

“To be crystal clear, if you have been directly or indirectly infected by NHS blood, blood products or tissue contaminated with HIV or hepatitis C, or have developed a chronic infection from blood contaminated with hepatitis B, you will be eligible to claim compensation under the scheme," Mr Glen said.

“Our expectation is that final payments will start before the end of the year,” he later added.

Anyone already registered with support schemes will automatically be considered eligible for compensation in the government-run scheme, he confirmed.

All those affected by the scandal - not only those who were infected with contaminated blood - will receive payouts, he confirmed, listing partners, parents, siblings, children, family and friends.

He confirmed non-taxable compensation for victims who have died without seeing justice will go to their estate.

“Where the infected person has died, estate representatives will receive compensation as a single lump sum to then distribute to beneficiaries of the estate as is appropriate," he told the Commons.

“We’ll also guarantee that any payments made to those eligible will be exempt from income, capital gains and inheritance tax, as well as disregard from means-tested benefit assessments.

“We’ll also ensure that all claimants are able to appeal their award, both through an internal review process in the Infected Blood Compensation Authority and, where needed, the right to appeal to a first-tier tribunal."

Setting out the eligibility of further interim payments beginning in the summer, Mr Glen said: “There may be people – indeed there will be people – listening today who are thinking to themselves that they may not live to receive compensation.

“Payments of £210,000 will be made to living infected beneficiaries, those registered with existing infected blood support schemes, as well as those who register with the support scheme before the final scheme becomes operational, and the estates of those who pass away between now and payments being made.

“I know that time is of the essence, which is why I’m also pleased to say that they will be delivered within 90 days, starting in the summer, so that they can reach those who need it so urgently most.”

However, victims are likely to be skeptical about how long it will take for payments to be issued after the Infected Blood Inquiry identified a “catalogue of systemic, collective and individual failures” following a seven-year probe.

Chairman of the infected blood inquiry Sir Brian Langstaff with victims and campaigners Credit: Jeff Moore/PA

Barrister Sir Robert Francis has been announced as the interim chairman of the new Infected Blood Compensation Authority, Mr Glen confirmed to an eruption of applause in the public gallery in the Commons.

The government today said it will respond to each of Sir Brian Langstaff’s - the infected blood inquiry chair - recommendations “in full as quickly as possible”.

Mr Glen noted that the inquiry recommended the scheme should be flexible in its awards of compensation, providing both a lump sum or regular payments.

Rishi Sunak earlier sidestepped questions about why it has taken so long for his government to set out full compensation for victims, after the inquiry criticised the current government for failing to act immediately on recommendations around payouts which were made last year.

The 2,527-page report from the inquiry, published on Monday, found the infected blood scandal “could largely have been avoided” and there was a “pervasive” cover-up to hide the truth.

Inquiry chairman Sir Brian said “the scale of what happened is horrifying”, with more than 3,000 people dead as a result and survivors battling for decades to uncover the truth.

Ministers failed to act in order to save face and expense, the inquiry said, as it called out successive governments, medical professionals and the NHS.

Sir Brian said the contaminated blood disaster is “still happening” because patients who suffered “life-shattering” infections continue to die every week.

What has been the reaction so far?

Shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds told the Commons he welcomed the plans and Labour has committed to work on a cross-party basis to help deliver the compensation scheme.

But he urged the political leadership to drop its culture of "institutional defensiveness" - as pointed out in Sir Brian's report - and replace it with "openness and transparency", highlighting the Horizon and Hillsborough scandals as other examples of "putting the reputation of people and protecting institutions above public service".

He warned: “One of the most powerful conclusions in this report is that an apology is only meaningful if it is accompanied by action.”

SNP frontbencher Chris Stephens questioned why victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal are receiving more in compensation than infected blood victims, pointing to the £210,000 interim payment.

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Mr Glen insisted interim payments are not a “stalling tactic”, adding that the £210,000 interim was the maximum amount he was advised to offer, adding: "I was trying to get the maximum amount that could be universally paid to those who were infected and alive without any risk of paying the wrong amount."

The Father of the House of Commons called on the government to introduce NHS passports for those impacted, so they do not have to face intrusive questions every time they seek medical attention for illness contracted as a result of the scandal.

Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley said: “It’s 36 years since I was with the first of my friends, who I knew had been infected, and it’s 33 years since the person died. Friendships got fractured, families were changed forever.

“One of the points which I hope (John Glen) will put to his fellow ministers and health is whether those who are still infected in some way can have a kind of National Health Service passport, so when they go to get medical attention, they’re not asked the same questions that my constituents were every time – how much have you been drinking? Why is your liver in the way that it is? And all the rest.

“It is important, I think, that those who are young in conditions should actually understand that if you see that there’s a haemophilia or a whole blood infection, that you can take for granted a lot of things which you don’t need to ask. That humanity, I think, needs to be spread.”

He added that those being compensated should be helped through the process of receiving the funds because “families sometimes don’t find it easy to decide how money should be shared”.