elatives of victims of the NHS infected blood scandal are to hand in a letter to Downing Street telling Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that “action is needed now” to set up a body to give full compensation.
It comes amid complaints the Government is dragging its heels over compensation payments and ahead of Mr Sunak and Chancellor and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt giving evidence to the Infected Blood Inquiry this month.
Jason Evans, 33, was four years old when his father Jonathan, a 31-year-old carpenter from Coventry, died after being infected with hepatitis C and HIV.
Mr Evans, who will be among those who will hand in the letter addressed to Mr Sunak on Monday, said that having to personally bring their concerns to Whitehall “totally compounds the trauma and grief” of the survivors and bereaved families who fought for an inquiry and have seen widespread recognition that compensation should be paid.
He told PA news agency: “We need action to happen now because people are dying, not just people infected but the bereaved families as well.
“We know that 380 children were infected with HIV, many of those died in childhood, and their parents are now in their 80s.
“We know of people who have died only recently.
“People are dying without seeing any acknowledgement.”
This delay denies victims and their families any sense of tangible progress. Many continue to die without full redress, this can not be right
The inquiry was established in 2017 to examine how thousands of patients in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
About 2,400 people died in what has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.
Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff said in April that he was taking the unusual step of publishing the recommendation ahead of the publication of the full report into the scandal so that victims would not face any more delays.
Under the initial scheme victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment of around £100,000.
The letter reminds Mr Sunak that, while he was running last year to become the Conservative Party leader, he said he would ensure the interim compensation payments recommended by Sir Brian Langstaff are paid without delay.
The letter notes that Mr Sunak said at the time: “The contaminated blood scandal is a tragic injustice and we must now match words with action, just as we did with those affected by the Thalidomide scandal.
“Survivors and their families need to have certainty now…”
The relatives and survivors want action on interim payments to be made in respect of “deaths not yet recognised”.
This covers a range of relationships including the unmarried parents of deceased children and also children who were orphaned when both of their parents died.
The inquiry has recommended the Government establish an arms length compensation body now and definitely before the final report in the autumn.
The letter states: “This delay denies victims and their families any sense of tangible progress.
“Many continue to die without full redress, this can not be right.
“The interim payment for deaths not yet recognised is critical.
“These payments are not just about compensation, they symbolise acknowledgement and the represent initial recognition of each life lost.”
Mr Sunak has previously said the Government will wait for the full report into the infected blood scandal before considering whether to extend the compensation scheme for victims.
Mr Sunak will give evidence to the inquiry on July 26 and Mr Hunt is due to appear on July 28.
Commons Leader and former paymaster general Penny Mordaunt will appear on July 24, with current Paymaster General Jeremy Quin at the inquiry the following day.
The ministers will give evidence on the Government’s response to the use of infected blood and the question of compensation.
The chairman of the inquiry has said that an interim compensation scheme should be widened so more people, including orphaned children and parents who lost children, could be compensated.
Mr Evans, director of campaign group Factor 8, said: “The transparency has never been there from the beginning, it is probably the main thing that makes it a scandal.
“Despite the Government’s warm words we may not get that transparency even now – that is the fear.
“The transparency we would like to have is with the various ministers who are giving evidence next week to say `this is what we have been doing, these are the recommendations we are prepared to accept and this is the timetable for when it is going to happen’.
“We would like just some clear answers rather than the line that they give which is `we are working at pace’.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Government accepts the moral case for compensation and work is ongoing across the UK Government and in consultation with the devolved administrations to consider as quickly as possible the recommendations put forward in the inquiry’s second interim report.”