Minister admits infected blood scandal victims have waited too long for compensation

Minister admits infected blood scandal victims have waited too long for compensation

Campaigners have demanded urgent action after a cabinet minister admitted that victims of the infected blood scandal had been forced to wait too long for compensation.

A landmark inquiry will set out on Monday how decades of failures led to one of the worst disasters in NHS history.

Lives were devastated when more than 30,000 people were given contaminated blood or blood products between the 1970s and the early 1990s.

Compensation worth more than £10bn is set to be announced by ministers after Jeremy Hunt said it would fulfil a personal promise he made to one of his constituents 10 years ago.

The prime minister is also expected to make an official apology after the inquiry unveils its damning findings.

Campaigners are set to rally for a final time as the final report of the Infected Blood Inquiry is published (PA Wire)

The defence secretary Grant Shapps said that families affected by the fiasco have been “let down” over decades, and that their cases constitute one of the most shameful failures of government he has seen.

Asked if the process of compensation had taken too long, even in recent years, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “Yes, I think it has been too slow, of course I do.”

The scandal is a “massive injustice which needs to be put right”, he added, promising that ministers would act on the report.

Andy Evans, the chair of the Tainted Blood campaign, whose mother had to tell him he had contracted HIV from infected blood when he was just 13, said compensation “will help so many people”. But he cautioned that “the devil is in the detail”, and said campaigners would be looking at the small print in the government’s announcement.

Sarah Dorricott, whose father Mike was mentioned by Mr Hunt, said she would be over the moon “if” the compensation was signed off. “We’re used to being put on the back burner, we are used to being ignored. So there’s always an ‘if’ for us, because we’re so used to disappointment,” she said. It would be “amazing to see finally that all our efforts have not been in vain”, she told Times Radio.

Jeremy Hunt has told of the promise he made to ensure a fair and full settlement during a meeting with campaigner Mike Dorricott in 2014 (PA Wire)

Kate Burt, the chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said “radical change” must result from the inquiry “if we are to learn the lessons of the past and protect future generations from harm.

“For the sake of the thousands of people who have died, and those whose lives continue to be blighted by this terrible scandal, it is vital that the inquiry’s recommendations are acted upon.”

A Labour government would honour Mr Hunt’s commitment to compensation, the shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said. He also accepted that his party would be criticised in Monday’s report, and said Labour would have to “take that on the chin”.

Mr Hunt said he had promised to “sort” a settlement during a meeting with campaigner Mr Dorricott in 2014, in an interview with The Sunday Times.

The chancellor also called the scandal the worst of his lifetime as he indicated that he would be open to establishing a memorial to the victims.

Mr Dorricott, who was just 46 years old when he met with Mr Hunt, had learnt weeks earlier that he had terminal liver cancer – a disease linked to the hepatitis C he contracted as a teenager from contaminated factor 8 blood products.

After he told his family that he had only months to live, he visited Mr Hunt, who was then the health secretary.

During their meeting, he expressed his anger that infected patients and their families had not received a full and fair settlement.

Towards the end of the meeting, Mr Hunt shook his hand and said: “Don’t worry about this, we’ll sort it.”

Defence secretary Grant Shapps has admitted that the process of awarding compensation has been too slow (PA Wire)

A new compensation package for those affected by the scandal, due to be unveiled as early as Tuesday and funded through government borrowing, will be “thanks to Mike more than anyone else”, said Mr Hunt, adding: “And it’s one of the saddest things that he’s not around to see it.”

The chancellor described Mr Dorricott as “so gentle, so decent”.

“I imagine after that meeting that Mike thought he’d been fobbed off by yet another politician giving him the runaround,” he said. “But what Mike didn’t know was that he really had made a huge impression on me.”

Mr Hunt also said ministers would look “very sympathetically” on any request from victims or their families for a national memorial.

“What we want to do after Monday is [to have] very close engagement with all the families who’ve been through such hell, and understand from them what the next steps need to be,” he said.