Government urged not to use infected blood compensation to ‘dodge criticism’

The Government must not use compensation progress to “bury criticism” from the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report, the Haemophilia Society has said.

The Government indicated in private meetings with campaigners last week that it proposes to publish full details of its compensation plans, possibly including tariff amounts, within hours of the final report being released on May 20, the society added.

The compensation, which is set to be “northwards of £10 billion”, is yet to be signed off by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak but has the support of the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, The Sunday Times reports.

Sources say the decision means it is unlikely there will be another fiscal event, such as an autumn statement, before the election, amid suggestions Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will not be able to afford a substantial pre-election giveaway, The Sunday Times added.

Tens of thousands of people were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through infected blood and blood products in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, in what has been dubbed the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

The Infected Blood Inquiry made its final recommendations on compensation for victims and their loved ones in April 2023.

Infected blood victims and campaigners protest in Westminster
The Infected Blood Inquiry made its final recommendations on compensation in April 2023 (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Haemophilia Society said it “welcomes all progress towards fair and swift compensation payments”, but also urges the Government “not to obscure the serious and far-reaching recommendations likely to come from the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final recommendations”.

On Tuesday, the Haemophilia Society’s chief executive Kate Burt and chairman Clive Smith will meet John Glen, the minister with responsibility for the Infected Blood Inquiry.

They will tell him that any attempt by the Government to deflect attention from the inquiry’s recommendations and criticisms on May 20 would be an “insult to the thousands of people infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal who have waited so long to hear the truth about what happened”, the society added.

Ms Burt said: “Finally, the Government appears to have woken up to the urgent need to provide compensation payments for everyone infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal.

“With the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report just weeks away from publication, it is imperative that the loss and suffering of those impacted by this catastrophic NHS treatment failure is recognised and acted upon by Government.

“While we welcome all progress towards fair compensation payments, we hope that the Government will not try to use this apparent momentum to dodge any criticism that it, and previous Governments, are likely to receive in the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report on May 20.

“Out of respect to victims of this scandal, the Government must listen to the inquiry’s final recommendations and take responsibility for what happened.”

Commenting on reports in The Sunday Times that paying compensation would mean the Government would have to scrap its plans for tax cuts, Ms Burt said: “The Government has had years to budget for compensation but has refused to face the issue and now finds itself backed into a financial corner with no-one to blame but itself.”

A Government spokesperson said: “This was an appalling tragedy that never should have happened.

“We are clear that justice needs to be done and swiftly, which is why we have acted in amending the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

“This includes establishing a new body to deliver an Infected Blood Compensation Scheme, confirming the Government will make the required regulations for it within three months of Royal Assent, and that it will have all the funding needed to deliver compensation once they have identified the victims and assessed claims.

“In addition, we have included a statutory duty to provide additional interim payments to the estates of deceased infected people.

“We will continue to listen carefully to the community as we address this dreadful scandal.”