Infected blood victim says government compensation 'isn't good enough' as wait goes on

  • ITV Cymru Wales health reporter Katie Fenton has the story.

A dad-of-two who was infected with hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood as a child has said the UK Government's compensation scheme "isn't good enough" as many will not live to see the payments.

The government confirmed on Tuesday that everyone "infected or affected" by the scandal will receive compensation, some before the end of the year, with interim payments of £210,000 for the most urgent cases to be made from the summer.

Paymaster General John Glen said he recognises "time is of the essence", with members of the infected blood community dying every week.

It comes after the Infected Blood Inquiry concluded that the biggest treatment disaster in the NHS "could largely have been avoided" and there was a "pervasive" cover-up to hide the truth.

David Thomas, from Llanharry, Rhondda Cynon Taf, received contaminated blood when he was around 10 years old during while receiving treatment for haemophilia in the early 1980s.

But he was not told he had hepatitis C until he was 24, and even then was not aware he had been part of such a big scandal.

He did not tell anyone outside of his immediate family out of fear of the stigma attached to the virus, and only began speaking publicly about it after a biopsy in 2010 showed he had developed liver disease as a result of the hepatitis.

Now 52, he was cleared of the virus in 2016 after a fight for access to treatment.

Speaking to ITV Cymru Wales from his home with his wife Kate, David said he felt a mixture of happiness and sadness about the conclusion of the inquiry.

"Happiness that the report has come up with the findings that it has," he said.

"It's vindicating everything the campaign has been trying to get through to successive governments for 40 years.

"Sadness that it has taken this long and that so many people have died."

David, who has struggled with depression as a result of his ordeal, said he couldn't access things like life insurance, travel insurance or mortgage protection because of his condition. He received an interim compensation payment of £100,000 last year.

On Tuesday's compensation announcement, David said: "It's as far-reaching as I thought it would go. I was a bit concerned about appeals and people's eligibility but they seem to covered that off.

"So on the whole with the compensation scheme, the initial sight looks OK.

"There will be another interim payment made. What the overall package looks like, I have no idea.

"Undoubtedly there will be more questions that arise from this. At the moment it's still not clear in terms of a timeline or quantity of money.

"It's still not clear how it will be assessed and if it will be someone making a judgement on how they think you've been impacted."

David said he is worried for those impacted who may not live to see compensation being paid.

He also questioned whether those affected by the scandal who have since died will receive compensation to their estate, like his mother, Jean, who died at the start of this year.

His cousin, Leigh Sugar, also a haemophiliac, died after contracting hepatitis C at around the same time.

"As a community of people we've lived with this can being kicked down the road time and time again," he said.

"It does concern me, people like my mother, who had to live with the stress of her son having contracted this for 30-odd years and having to live with the guilt.

"She's not here to fight for that money that she was due so it might get cast aside.

"By April 2025, when this scheme will allegedly take place, another 70 to 100 people will have died.

"It isn't good enough. The payments should be made now. The report has been published. The government have run the numbers and they know roughly what it'll cost.

"It's beyond me why those payments couldn't be made to the people infected, certainly. It's not good enough."

Beatrice Morgan, senior associate solicitor at Leigh Day, which represents dozens of victims, said: "We do have some concerns, still, about the proposed scheme and we understand that there's detail to come.

"There are quite a few of our clients who haven't been eligible for any kind of support payments so far, and haven't received that compensation sum that was delivered last year, so there are details in relation to the administration of the scheme that are yet to become clear.

"It seems to be clear that those who are already registered on a financial support scheme will be automatically eligible for this new financial compensation scheme.

"However there are clients who weren't eligible for those, for example people infected after September 1, 1991, but also crucially, people who haven't been able to prove that they had a blood transfusion.

"Often it's people who had hepatitis C who had a transfusion in the seventies or eighties who weren't diagnosed for about 30 years and when they went back to get their records they had been destroyed, so those people have never been eligible for any kind of financial support."

But Ms Morgan said the compensation announcement was "significant".

"People have campaigned for decades just to have some kind of recognition of the fact that this has happened to them.

"Closure and redress comes in lots of different formats and will be different for everybody but at least a commitment to a full and proper compensation scheme does go some way in addressing concerns.

"It's unfortunate that it's taken so long to get to this point. Whilst we are pleased that this announcement has come today, we and our clients would have hoped it would have come a lot sooner than this.

"The extent of the failures found against individuals will need to be examined closely and whether there's a call for stripping people of their titles, we'll need to consider that closely with our clients and there may well be a campaign for that in the future.

"In terms of bringing criminal proceedings against individuals, it may just be too late for that to have any effect, possibly because they're no longer with us or the public interest, because they are so elderly.

"Although compensation is a huge part of this, there are lots of other recommendations that are very significant for our clients, both in terms of additional support that they and their families need, but also making sure this never happens again.

"The people that are infected, many of them are very unwell now and they need to see the end of this, and get on with the rest of their lives."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…