‘Time is of the essence’ for infected blood payments – minister

Some victims of the infected blood scandal will receive a £210,000 interim compensation payment before the end of the summer, the Government has announced.

Cabinet Office Minister John Glen said he recognised that “time is of the essence” as he announced that many will also benefit from further interim compensation payments within 90 days.

And he confirmed that the first full compensation payments to victims of the infected blood scandal will be made before the end of the year.

Mr Glen also announced that friends and family members of those infected would also be eligible for compensation under the scheme.

And Sir Robert Francis KC has been announced as the interim chairman of the arm’s-length Infected Blood Compensation Authority, the Government confirmed.

Mr Glen reiterated the Prime Minister’s apology to victims of the infected blood scandal, telling the Commons: “Yesterday the Prime Minister spoke about the anguish that the infected blood scandal brought to those impacted by it.

“I want to reiterate his words and apologise again today, I am sorry.”

INQUIRY Blood
(PA Graphics)

More than 30,000 people were infected with deadly viruses between the 1970s and early 1990s as they received blood transfusions or blood products while receiving NHS care.

The 2,527-page report from the Infected Blood Inquiry, published on Monday, found the infected blood scandal “could largely have been avoided” and there was a “pervasive” cover-up to hide the truth.

Some 3,000 people have since died.

Flanked in the House by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, Mr Glen did not confirm the cost of the compensation package for those infected and affected by the tragedy, though it is reported to be upwards of £10 billion.

He told MPs: “Those who have been infected or affected as a result of this scandal will receive compensation.

“To be crystal clear, if you have been directly or indirectly infected by NHS blood, blood products or tissue contaminated with HIV or hepatitis C, or have developed a chronic infection from blood contaminated with hepatitis B, you will be eligible to claim compensation under the scheme.

“And where an infected person has died, but would have been eligible under these criteria, compensation will be paid to their estate.

“And this will include where a person was infected with hepatitis B and died during the acute period of infection.”

He added: “When a person with an eligible infection has been accepted onto the scheme, their affected loved ones will be able to apply for compensation in their own right.

“That means partners, parents, siblings, children, friends and family who have acted as carers of those who are infected are all eligible to claim.”

Mr Glen added: “Our expectation is that final payments will start before the end of the year.”

INQUIRY Blood
(PA Graphics)

On interim payments, he continued: “Today I’m announcing the Government will be making further interim payments ahead of the establishment of the full scheme.

“Payments of £210,000 will be made to living infected beneficiaries, those registered with existing infected blood support schemes, as well as those who register with the support scheme before the final scheme becomes operational, and the estates of those who pass away between now and payments being made.

“I know that time is of the essence, which is why I’m also pleased to say that they will be delivered within 90 days, starting in the summer, so that they can reach those who need it so urgently most.”

Mr Glen also confirmed:

– Anyone already registered with one of the existing infected blood support schemes will automatically be considered eligible for compensation

– There will be five categories under which compensation will be awarded and multiple awards would be provided where applicable. These categories, or “tariffs” include: injury, social impact, autonomy, care and financial loss

– Steps will be made to minimise the distress caused by providing eligibility for the scheme

– Compensation will be paid as either a lump sum or through regular payments, though estates of people who have died will be given a single lump sum

– Payments will be exempt from income, capital gains and inheritance tax, as well as disregard from means-tested benefit assessments

– People will be able to appeal regarding their payment, should they wish, he added.

Mr Glen added: “Over the next few weeks Sir Robert Francis will seek views from the infected blood community on the proposed scheme before its terms are set in regulations, to make sure that the scheme will best serve those that it’s intended for.”

Sir Robert said: “I am humbled to be asked to chair the Infected Blood Compensation Authority on an interim basis.

“Having witnessed the depth of victims’ suffering as I compiled my report on the compensation framework, I know the urgency of providing them with the remedies they are entitled to as soon as is practicable.

“I will ensure that the shadow Authority obtains the community’s views urgently and I will update on plans for doing so shortly.

“The Government’s proposals for the scheme are positive and meaningful and I look forward to discussing them with the community through a validation exercise which the Minister and I have agreed will take place.

“We must ensure that the scheme is designed to determine and pay entitlements to compensation without compounding people’s suffering further. Through a compassionate, transparent and fair process, and aligning as closely as possible to the recommendations of Sir Brian in the second interim report.”

On existing support schemes, Mr Glen added: “I want to provide reassurance to all those out there today that no immediate changes will be made to the support schemes.

“Payments will continue to be made at the same level until March 31 2025 and they will not be deducted from any of these compensation awards.

“From April 1 2025, any support scheme payments received will be counted towards a beneficiary’s final compensation award – this will ensure parity between support scheme beneficiaries regardless of whether they were the first or the last to have their compensation assessed by the Infected Blood Compensation Authority.

“We will ensure that no-one receives less in compensation than they would have received in support payments.”

The Infected Blood Inquiry said that harm done to those affected by the scandal was “compounded” by the Government’s “sluggish pace” on compensation.

Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff made his final recommendations on compensation in April 2023, saying that victims should not face any more delays for redress.

He said that an arms-length compensation scheme should be established before the final report of his inquiry, but full details of the scheme were only confirmed by ministers the day after inquiry concluded.

The Government has faced heavy criticism from campaigners for delays in introducing the scheme.