Bereaved relatives of victims affected by the NHS infected blood scandal are preparing to hand-deliver a letter to Downing Street urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to take immediate action in establishing a compensation body. The letter emphasizes the need for timely compensation and expresses frustration over the sluggish progress made by the government in providing compensation payments. This comes ahead of Mr. Sunak’s and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s forthcoming appearance at the Infected Blood Inquiry.
Jason Evans, who was four years old when his father Jonathan died from hepatitis C and HIV, will be among the relatives delivering the letter addressed to Mr. Sunak. Mr. Evans explains that bringing their concerns directly to Whitehall amplifies the trauma and grief experienced by survivors and bereaved families who have fought for an inquiry and recognition that compensation should be given.
Mr. Evans stresses the urgent need for action, explaining that people continue to die without any acknowledgment or compensation. He cites the case of 380 children who were infected with HIV, many of whom died during childhood, and explains that their parents, now in their 80s, have yet to see any form of resolution.
The inquiry, established in 2017, aims to investigate how thousands of patients in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. The scandal led to approximately 2,400 deaths and is regarded as the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.
In April, Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff released a recommendation in advance of the full report to prevent further delays in compensating victims. The current scheme allows victims and bereaved partners to receive interim payments of around £100,000. The letter reminds Mr. Sunak that he had committed to ensuring timely payment of these recommended interim compensation payments in his leadership campaign, drawing a parallel with the Thalidomide scandal and urging immediate action.
Relatives and survivors are calling for interim payments to be extended to cover “deaths not yet recognized.” This includes unmarried parents who lost children and orphaned children who lost both parents. The inquiry has recommended the establishment of an independent compensation body before the publication of its final report in autumn. The letter highlights that the delay in establishing such a body denies victims and families a sense of progress and that many continue to die without receiving full redress.
Mr. Sunak has previously stated that the government will wait for the full report before considering an extension of the compensation scheme. He is scheduled to provide evidence to the inquiry on July 26 along with Mr. Hunt on July 28. Penny Mordaunt, Commons Leader and former paymaster general, will testify on July 24, and the current Paymaster General, Jeremy Quin, will appear the following day. The ministers are expected to address the government’s response to the use of infected blood and the issue of compensation.
The chairman of the inquiry has called for the widening of the interim compensation scheme to include more individuals, including orphaned children and parents who have lost children, who deserve compensation. Mr. Evans, director of campaign group Factor 8, expresses concerns about the lack of transparency throughout the scandal and hopes that the ministers giving evidence will provide clear answers and a timetable of actions.