Reuters Health Information (2003-08-29): Britain says it will pay recipients of hepatitis C-contaminated blood
Britain says it will pay recipients of hepatitis C-contaminated blood
Last Updated: 2003-08-29 14:18:44 -0400 (Reuters Health)
LONDON (Reuters Health) - Thousands of Britons infected with the hepatitis C virus as a result of contaminated blood products and transfusions are to receive compensation, Health Secretary John Reid said on Friday.
The details of the payments have yet to be worked out but a Department of Health spokesman said the sums involved could range from �20,000 to �45,000.
Many thousands of people, especially haemophiliacs, were infected during the 1970s and early 1980s before the hepatitis C virus could be detected in blood and before blood products were heat-treated.
Reid said in a statement a financial assistance scheme would be introduced for people infected with the virus as a result of being given blood products by the National Health Service.
"I looked at the history of this issue and decided on compassionate grounds that this is the right thing to do in this situation. I have therefore decided in principle that English hepatitis C sufferers should receive ex-gratia payments from the Department of Health."
The ministry spokesman said compensation schemes were also planned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Between 3000 to 5000 people might be eligible for the payments, he said. Possible ballpark figures were �20,000 for people who had not cleared the virus from their system and �45,000 for people with liver damage.
The Haemophilia Society urged the government last year to make �52.6 million available annually for people with haemophilia who were infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood products.
The charity said that from 1969 to 1985, 95% of people with haemophilia were treated with blood products carrying a high risk of infection with hepatitis C. As a result, 2,829 haemophiliacs alive in the country today were infected with the virus.
It argued that annual payments were needed because of loss of earnings, difficulties in obtaining travel, life and medical insurance, pensions and mortgages, and the progressive impact of hepatitis C on the health of haemophiliacs.
Hundreds of British haemophiliacs have already received government compensation for being infected with HIV via blood products.