Government will make infected blood payouts if inquiry recommends it – Hancock
The Government will pay compensation to people affected by the contaminated blood scandal if an ongoing inquiry recommends it, the Health Secretary has said.
The inquiry is examining how thousands of patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
About 2,400 people died in what has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.
Mr Hancock told the inquiry that resolving the issue of financial support and compensation was “long overdue”.
He said: “Should the inquiry’s recommendations point to compensation, then of course we will pay compensation.
“Sir Robert Francis’ review on compensation is there in order that the Government will be able to respond quickly to that.”
Some of those affected by the scandal already receive payments through the England Infected Blood Support Scheme.
It was announced on Thursday that Sir Robert Francis QC, who chaired the public inquiry into the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, had been appointed to study options for a framework for compensation.
Mr Hancock added: “We will respect the outcome of the inquiry and if it points to compensation, as opposed to a support scheme in the future, then the Government will pay compensation.”
I think that resolving this problem, this whole tragedy and all that it has left behind, is long overdue
Asked if he agreed it was “inevitable” the Government would need to provide “substantial compensation”, Mr Hancock said: “I go further than that. Should that be the outcome of this inquiry, then we will.”
Mr Hancock also gave the inquiry his “commitment” that anyone already receiving support payments – regardless of them being “infected or affected” – would receive them for “their lifetime”.
Asked if he felt the Government had a “moral responsibility” to address the impact of the scandal, Mr Hancock replied: “Yes I do.”
He added: “I think that resolving this problem, this whole tragedy and all that it has left behind, is long overdue.”
Mr Hancock’s appearance came after Scotland’s public health minister Mairi Gougeon told the inquiry on Tuesday that the UK Government will need to compensate those affected by the scandal.
We now go forward with renewed positivity and intend to work closely with Sir Robert and his team to achieve a just and lasting outcome
Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors and legal adviser to more than 1,500 people affected by the scandal, said: “My clients tonight will be breathing a huge sigh of relief.
“It may have taken some 40 years, but for the first time today we heard the UK Government committing to paying due compensation to the infected and affected by this huge scandal, if recommended to do so when the inquiry reports. Bravo, Mr Hancock, for doing the right thing.
“The inquiry has heard week after week of truly harrowing testimony from living victims and relatives of those who have died. We’ve also seen how disparate the various support schemes paid to date have been between the countries of the United Kingdom. Fairness must prevail.
“We now go forward with renewed positivity and intend to work closely with Sir Robert and his team to achieve a just and lasting outcome.”
The Infected Blood Inquiry is being led by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff.
Two previous inquiries have been branded a whitewash by campaigners.
Previous witness hearings, which featured harrowing evidence from victims and their families, have taken place in London, Belfast, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.