Blood scandal victims to receive compensation this year - and chronically-infected will be 'prioritised', Government says

MPs including Northumberland's Ian Lavery joined infected blood campaigners in Westminster.
MPs including Northumberland's Ian Lavery joined infected blood campaigners in Westminster earlier this year. -Credit:PA

Ministers said a full compensation scheme for victims of the contaminated blood scandal would be set up in "months", while ChronicleLive understands those who have chronic infections are likely to be "prioritised".

Further interim compensation payments could also be paid before full compensation. This comes after the Government was accused of trying to "wriggle out" of a plan to speed up payments, and as the Government minister with responsibility for the Infected Blood Inquiry begins a series of meetings with those infected and affected by the scandal.

Thousands of people - many of whom are haemophiliacs - were infected with viruses including HIV and hepatitis C through NHS treatment.

Hundreds have been killed and two people die continue to die due to this each week. Speaking in the House of Lords on Tursday night, Lord Howe told peers: "Victims of this scandal have waited far too long to see justice and the Government shares the determination of the House to ensure compensation reaches victims quickly.”

Speaking in the context of the Victims and Prisoners Bill - which would make providing compensation a legal duty for the Government - he added: “We recognise that Parliament and the infected blood community need clarity on when these measures will be in place. I can say now that the Government supports the opposition’s amendment to deliver the regulations establishing an infected blood compensation scheme within three months of royal assent and we are committed to doing so.”

Sir Brian Langstaff, chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry
Sir Brian Langstaff, chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry -Credit:Handout

However, he said that should those three months include the dissolution of parliament, there could be delays in this. It is currently likely the bill would receive royal assent before the end of the summer.

It is understood that "shadow" arms length board is to be set up by May 20, with an interim chief executive in place so that staff can be hired and systems in place to deliver full compensation as quickly as possible.

The official body - to be known as the Infected Blood Compensation Authority - would be formally set up set up within three months of the Victims and Prisoners' Bill receiving Royal Assent, which is hoped to have been by July. The Government has committed that the IBCA will have "all the funding needed" to deliver compensation, while those infected and affected by the scandal are to be involved in the process of hiring an independent chair for the IBCA.

The Government's amendments to the Bill will also mean it has a duty to pay interim payments to "the estates of deceased infected people who were registered with existing or former support schemes" - this would potentially impact children or parents of those to have died who have yet to receive interim compensation.

Carol Grayson with copies of work produced during the Journal's Bad Blood campaign in the early 2000s
Carol Grayson with copies of work produced during the Journal's Bad Blood campaign in the early 2000s -Credit:Craig Connor/ChronicleLive

Payments of £100,000 were made to those registered to support schemes in October 2022. The Government said it also intends that the IBCA will "prioritise those people who are registered with the Infected Blood Support Schemes and living with chronic infections". These people will not have to register.

Following the House of Lords debate, Jesmond's Carol Grayson, who has been campaigning for justice for decades, said that she was clear that any compensation should not mean previous commitments to support payments - which infected haemophiliacs and widows like herself have long since received - were impacted.

One attendee at a meeting with Mr Glen, Stuart Maclean - who was given Hepatitis through contaminated blood products as a child - told ChronicleLive meeting with Mr Glen had been "positive". Stuart added: "One point I made was that there shouldn't just be a bill for the Government at the end of this."

He said he had expressed his hope that the medics responsible for treatment would be held responsible in Sir Brian Langstaff's final inquiry report, and "asset-stripped".

The final report from Sir Brian Langstaff's statutory and independent Infected Blood Inquiry is due to be delivered on May 20. Sir Brian has previously called for full compensation to be awarded before now, and campaigners have been angry at delays to heeding his advice.

Cabinet Office minister John Glen has begun meeting with people to have been infected themselves and their families and loved ones. Attendees at those meetings said there had been a "hint" that further interim compensation payments may be made.

Ahead of his meetings, the minister said: "Over the next two weeks, I am meeting with over 40 representatives from the infected blood community. The purpose of these meetings is to seek input on what the Government's next steps should be, and to better understand the community's concerns and priorities.

"I want to reassure them, and the wider community, that their views will be taken into account as the Government prepares its response to the Inquiry's final report. Above all, justice needs to be delivered for the victims of this dreadful scandal, which is why we will set out our next steps on compensation as swiftly as possible once we receive the Inquiry's final report."

Speaking outside the Lords' chamber Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: "The victims of the infected blood scandal have won another important victory. I pay tribute to those who have fought so hard for justice. Labour is proud to have helped secured this vital change to the law, to try and speed up the compensation scheme.

“The Government have now been forced, under cross-party pressure, to set out a clear timetable to deliver a final compensation scheme. They must now progress – urgently – with getting the body ready to make payments. The Labour Party will keep doing everything possible to make sure no more time is lost.”