'It's a very big landmark' - Blood contamination victim welcomes new report

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham.

Contaminated blood victim, Michelle Tolley of Sparham, who is playing a large part in the public inquiry into the scandal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Campaigners have welcomed the news that 4,000-plus surviving victims of the contaminated blood scandal are recommended to receive provisional compensation of £100,000. 

It comes following the publication of a report by the chairman of the infected blood public inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, who said there was a compelling case to make the payments – and quickly. 

Described as the worse treatment disaster in NHS history, those affected called on the government to take heed and act.

Michelle Tolley, of Sparham, near Dereham, became infected with hepatitis C when she received blood transfusions post-childbirth.

She has been campaigning for victims ever since finding out in 2015

She praised the recommendation as a landmark moment and said it was time that those “who had been given a death sentence” finally received compensation. 

Currently, victims and families get an annual financial support payment but have not been compensated for the loss of earnings, care costs, and other lifetime losses. 

Over the years, the government has put in place a number of schemes offering victims financial support but without any admission of liability. Compensation has never been paid to individuals or families affected. 

Factor VII blood products, Sir Brian Langstaff. Picture: Factor VIII / Infected Blood Inquiry

Factor VII blood products, Sir Brian Langstaff. Picture: Factor VIII / Infected Blood Inquiry - Credit: Archant

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What is the blood scandal? 

The blood scandal saw at least 2,400 people die after they contracted HIV or hepatitis C through NHS treatments during the 1970s and 80s. 

Thousands of NHS patients with haemophilia and other blood disorders, such as sickle cell, became seriously ill after being given a new treatment called factor VIII or IX from the mid-1970s onwards.  

The medication was then imported from the US where it had been made from the pooled blood plasma of thousands of paid donors, including some in high-risk groups, such as prisoners.  

If a single donor was infected with a blood-borne virus such as hepatitis or HIV then the whole batch of medication could have been contaminated.  

An unknown number of UK patients were also exposed to hepatitis B or C through a blood transfusion after childbirth or hospital surgery – some as late as 1992. 

What does this mean for those affected? 

Groups representing victims say this recommendation is a major step forward and moves towards an official admission of responsibility

Statistics have shown that one known victim dies every four days, and since the inquiry began five years ago, 419 people in total have died. 

Michelle Tolley speaking at the Infected Blood Inquiry in London. Photo: Infected Blood Inquiry

Michelle Tolley speaking at the Infected Blood Inquiry in London. Photo: Infected Blood Inquiry - Credit: Archant

Mrs Tolley, 57, added: “After four decades they are actually listening, they have woken up, smelt the coffee, and realise that actually, they are murdering us.   

“I’ve always said they’ve given us a death sentence without us committing any crimes and I’m fed up of going to people’s funerals – and I know one of the next funerals could be mine – and we have to live with that. 

“Will I be here at the end of the inquiry? I've had to talk about arranging my own funeral, and we shouldn’t have had to do that. It’s very difficult to deal with something that's not been inflicted by you but someone else. 

“When you spread the compensation out of four decades, it's peanuts. It should never have happened. It should never happen again.”    

Sir Brian’s report added that individuals who currently qualify for financial support, including some bereaved partners of those killed, should now be offered interim compensation of £100,000 each. 

The idea would be to fund immediate bills and care needs, with final recommendations on compensation for a wider group of people expected when the inquiry concludes next year. 

It recommended that partners, children, siblings and parents of those who had been infected should be eligible for payments too. 

An independent study published last month, that was commissioned by the government, said victims should eventually be compensated for physical and social injury, the stigma of the disease, the impact on family and work life, and the cost of care. 

If the government accepts those proposals then the final bill could reach more than a billion pounds.