Health Minister Robin Swann has announced payments for people who were diagnosed with Hepatitis C or HIV after receiving NHS-supplied infected blood.
The interim payments for Northern Ireland beneficiaries of the Infected Blood Payment Scheme will range between £4,000 and £8,000 per person, depending on individual circumstances.
It is expected that further support may be provided before the end of this financial year, informed by a wider ongoing review of overall provision for victims.
The interim payments have been made possible by a £1 million allocation to the Department of Health through the Department of Finance’s January monitoring round.
The Health Minister stated: “I very much welcome this allocation. It allows my Department to now issue payments to help alleviate hardship – ahead of concluding the review of the overall package of support in Northern Ireland.
“The use of contaminated blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s was clearly the worst disaster in UK health care since the creation of the NHS. I am very aware of the terrible suffering and financial hardship that people have endured as a result of receiving a devastating diagnosis following receipt of NHS contaminated blood.”
The current support scheme for victims of infected blood in Northern Ireland includes regular monthly or quarterly payments; lump sums, discretionary one-off grant payments; annual winter fuel payments and income top-ups. Different support schemes operate in other UK regions.
The regular payments were made at the same level in Northern Ireland and England until April 2019. At that point, the UK Government announced significant increases in regular payments in the English scheme. This created a divergence with Northern Ireland. No extra monies were allocated to Northern Ireland as a result of the increase in England.
Mr Swann further stated: “I am very conscious of the hurt this divergence with England has caused to victims of infected blood here. I hope the interim payments I have announced today will go some way toward addressing that hurt and alleviating financial hardship.
“I am also committed to a wider ongoing review of all the support provided to victims in Northern Ireland. I want to make sure all aspects of our support scheme best meet the needs of our people.”
The first phase of this review has already commenced and will inform the provision of further support before the end of this financial year.
The second phase of the review will address other aspects of the scheme, with a view to working towards greater parity of support across the UK schemes, taking account of local circumstances and beneficiaries’ needs in Northern Ireland.
Further reform of the scheme will be required to address recommendations from the UK-wide Infected Blood Inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff. It is due to deliver its report in 2021.
Notes to editors:
- Before heat treatment of blood products was introduced in 1985, and a test for hepatitis C was developed and introduced in 1991, 4,675 people with haemophilia in the UK were infected with hepatitis C as a result of NHS-supplied blood products during the 1970s and 1980s. Epidemiological estimates suggest that up to 28,000 others may have been similarly infected with hepatitis C by whole blood transfusions in the UK.
- Over the same period, approximately 1,200 people with haemophilia and 100 other individuals were infected with HIV by NHS-supplied blood products or blood transfusions in the UK before the introduction of heat treatment of blood products, and the development and introduction of a test for HIV in 1985. Some of these patients were co-infected with both hepatitis C and HIV. It is estimated that up to 3,000 of these people have died of their infections.
- Since 2017, each UK country has had its own infected blood payment scheme. Details of the NI scheme were announced in December 2016 – further information is available on the DoH website.
- The NI Infected Blood Payment Scheme is administered on behalf of the Department of Health NI by the Business Services Organisation (BSO). Further information on the scheme is available on the NI Direct website.
- A UK-wide public inquiry, the Infected Blood Inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff, started work in September 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2021. The scale of the Inquiry reflects the scale of the disaster, reviewing material from almost 600 different organisations, repositories, archives, trusts, haemophilia centres and government bodies. More than 11.5 million pages have been reviewed by the Inquiry team and around 2.5 million pages placed on the Inquiry's documents system, a figure which grows at an average of 40,000 pages per week. The Inquiry heard oral evidence from 189 people between April and November 2019 and has received almost 4,000 written statements. For more information, visit the Infected Blood Inquiry website.
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