Infected blood scandal: Hancock pledges payouts if advised by inquiry

Health secretary agrees government has ‘moral responsibility’ to address what happened in 1970s and 80s

Matt Hancock has said compensation will be paid to people people infected by contaminated blood products and their relatives if is recommended by the public inquiry into the scandal.

Appearing at the inquiry on Friday, the health secretary agreed the government had a “moral responsibility” to address what had happened.

As many as 30,000 people became severely ill after being given factor VIII blood products contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C imported from the US in the 1970s and 80s. Others were exposed to tainted blood through transfusions or after childbirth. On average one person is dying every four days, with approximately 3,000 haemophiliacs having died to date.

The government set up a support scheme offering ex-gratia payments without any admission of liability, but has been urged to create a compensation scheme.

On Thursday, ahead of Hancock’s appearance at the inquiry, the paymaster general, Penny Mordaunt, announced the appointment of Sir Robert Francis QC to examine options for a framework for compensation before the inquiry reports its findings.

The health secretary told the inquiry: “I respect the process of the inquiry and I will respect its recommendations, and should the inquiry’s recommendations point to compensation, then of course we will pay compensation, and Sir Robert Francis’s review on compensation is there in order that the government will be able to respond quickly to that.

“But it would be wrong to pre-empt the findings of the inquiry on that basis by me giving a policy recommendation in the middle of it.”

Asked why parents of children who had died as a result of infected blood products or children whose parents had died were not covered by the support scheme, he suggested this could change if the inquiry recommended they should receive compensation.

He sought to address concerns that the support scheme could be withdrawn by insisting that it was “permanent”.

But the inquiry heard there were no plans to extend the scheme to people infected with hepatitis B and those infected with hepatitis C after September 1991.

The infected products, supplied by the NHS, came from blood from US prisoners and drug addicts, who were paid for their donations. The imported products were inadequately screened.

Hancock said: ‘“Even though I obviously wasn’t involved in the 70s and 80s … in my role as secretary of state, I acknowledge the pain and the suffering not only of the initial … errors that led to this harm on people’s lives, but also a sense that redress wasn’t properly considered and that people felt their voices weren’t heard, and I want to make sure those voices are heard.”

Gavin Sherrington-Blane, 41, was infected with hepatitis C when he was four weeks old after being wrongly diagnosed as haemophiliac and given contaminated factor VIII.

After watching Hancock at the inquiry, he said there was “huge disappointment” that there had been no commitment to payments for parents who had lost children, and vice versa, and also urged the government to agree to compensation immediately.

“The evidence that’s been heard in this inquiry is powerful, it’s damning across the board,” he said. “So they could move on this now and it’s the right thing to do. There are people dying every week from this and yet we have more waiting for a decision and action to be taken – it’s just not good enough.”

• This article was amended on 22 May 2021 to add text clarifying that some people were exposed to tainted blood through transfusions or after childbirth, not through blood products.

Contributor

Haroon Siddique Legal affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Theresa May orders contaminated blood scandal inquiry
Inquiry to look into deaths of 2,400 people after thousands were infected with HIV and hepatitis C mostly in 1970s and 80s

Peter Walker and Alexandra Topping

11, Jul, 2017 @9:26 PM

Article image
Ken Clarke criticised for showing ‘contempt’ at infected blood inquiry
Former health minister appeared irritated at detailed questioning of his role at time of 1980s scandal

Sarah Marsh

27, Jul, 2021 @6:44 PM

Article image
Infected blood inquiry judge calls for more testing for hepatitis C
Sir Brian Langstaff urges greater awareness of ‘terrible disease’ in opening remarks

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

30, Apr, 2019 @4:44 PM

Article image
Guilt and anger surface as infected blood inquiry hears evidence
Some victims’ diagnosis of HIV and hepatitis C was withheld for years, hearing told

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

24, Feb, 2020 @3:34 PM

Article image
Infected blood may have been given after safe date, inquiry hears
Testimony raises questions about assurances provided on screening out of hepatitis C

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

01, May, 2019 @5:31 PM

Article image
NHS infected blood scandal: minister defends new delay in compensation
Labour tells Ben Gummer that victims with HIV and hepatitis C feel they are being left to die in misery so costs of eventual settlement are more affordable

Damien Gayle

20, Jul, 2015 @5:44 PM

Article image
Simon Jenkins is wrong about the NHS infected blood inquiry | Letters
Letters: A public inquiry was the only way to get justice for those affected by this scandal, which went on for two decades and was covered up for 20 years more, writes Diana Johnson MP

Letters

21, Jun, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Infected blood scandal: Treasury refuses to publish key documents
Response to FoI request from victim’s son says disclosure may attract ‘disruptive’ media coverage

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

21, Sep, 2020 @9:16 AM

Article image
Infected blood scandal: Ex-pupil tells inquiry he did not know he was in a trial
Gary Webster, who went to Treloar College, was part of a cohort of 89 children, less than a quarter of whom are still alive

Haroon Siddique Legal affairs correspondent

21, Jun, 2021 @5:26 PM

Article image
Ex-bishop drafted in to help save contaminated blood inquiry
Former Hillsborough panel chair Right Rev James Jones asked to break stalemate by talking to victims boycotting proceedings

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

26, Jul, 2017 @3:57 PM