Three ex-health secretaries urge immediate payouts for infected blood victims

Andy Burnham, Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock have each stressed the importance of issuing the £100,000 recommended payouts as soon as possible.

30 July 2022

Three former health secretaries have urged the Government to compensate victims of the infected blood scandal and bereaved relatives immediately.

Andy Burnham, Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock have stressed how, since the life expectancy of many victims has been dramatically shortened, their £100,000 recommended payouts should be processed as soon as possible.

An estimated 2,400 people died after being infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s in what has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

There are also 2,007 core participants in the inquiry who are infected or affected, and research is ongoing to reach estimates for the total number of survivors.

Suicide prevention event
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said there may be a case for ‘corporate manslaughter’ over the infected blood scandal (Yui Mok/PA) 

Labour’s Mr Burnham highlighted how the eligibility criteria for compensation outlined by the Government means that bereaved relatives who were not romantic partners of victims are left out.

The Greater Manchester Mayor, who was health secretary from 2009 to 2010, also said that Government officials lied even to ministers about the infected products – adding there “may be a case for corporate manslaughter”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: “The Government hasn’t been truthful about this matter because of the fear of the financial exposure.

“It has clung to a line for decades that nothing wrong was done, that they did everything they could, and it simply isn’t true, the risks were known and people were given the products anyway.

“I would even go as far as to say there may be a case for corporate manslaughter here.”

“The really appalling statistic is about every four days, somebody infected is dying,” he added.

Appealing to Boris Johnson, he said: “Please, Prime Minister, do this today, say you’ll do it today, no one will disagree, every single Member of Parliament will support it, people have waited far, far too long.”

Sunday Morning
Jeremy Hunt has urged ministers to compensate infected blood victims before the end of the leadership contest (Stefan Rousseau/PA) 

Mr Hunt, who was health secretary from 2012 to 2018, and Mr Hancock, who held the post from 2018 to 2021, both said they believed the Government should make the payments as soon as practicable.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Hunt said he wanted to “urge ministers to recognise that time is of the essence” and that waiting until the end of the leadership contest would be too late for many victims.

“Successive governments, which I was part of one, didn’t act as quickly as they should have and we need to recognise this as a terrible, terrible injustice,” he said.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Hancock said: “My view is that when a Government sets up an inquiry like this, which we were right to do, it is then a moral duty on the state, on the Government, to pay compensation.”

Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff recommended that the payments are made mid-inquiry in light of the “profound physical and mental suffering” caused by the scandal.

Des Collins, a lawyer representing families, said those eligible should be paid within 14 days and he would be stepping up pressure on the Government to do this on Monday.

Infected Blood Inquiry
The Infected Blood Inquiry (Adam Seigel/Infected Blood Inquiry/PA)

The Cabinet Office said on Saturday that it will act on compensation recommendations “with the utmost urgency” and a copy of the inquiry’s report will be laid before MPs “once Parliament reconvenes” – in September.

A spokesperson said: “The Government is grateful to Sir Brian Langstaff for his interim report regarding interim compensation for victims of infected blood.

“We recognise how important this will be for people infected and affected across the UK, and can confirm that the Government will consider Sir Brian’s report and the recommendations of Sir Robert Francis QC with the utmost urgency, and will respond as soon as possible.

“A copy of the report will be laid in the House once Parliament reconvenes.”

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