Nearly 33,000 people, estimated to be infected with hepatitis C from contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s, are to sue the Government over a compensation scheme described as “demeaning.”
While around 1,500 people were infected with HIV caused by contaminated transfusions in hospitals across the country, more than 32,000 people are believed to be affected by the accidental transmission of hepatitis C and claim to have received “less support” than those who contracted HIV.
Under the current scheme, an initial lump sum payment of £20,000 is paid to those infected with hepatitis C. Unless their condition is recognized as stage 2 – and therefore categorised as ‘chronic’ - infected individuals must also seek further support by grants or apply for means-tested disability payments.
However, many victims say they have experienced difficulties in obtaining even the initial payment, with some waiting for up to 20 years to receive compensation. Others displaying a range of symptoms, which are regarded as “mild” are categorised as stage 1 and are thought to restrict access to compensation. An increase in the number of applicants seeking compensation is also believed to have reduced the total amount of money available.
The Government’s response to the hepatitis C contamination has been criticised in a January 2015 report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood. While only 6,000 people were previously identified, the report found that between 1970 and 1991, an estimated 32,718 people were actually affected, as first revealed by a Sunday Times investigation into the extent of the contamination.
Describing the scheme as “demeaning”, the APPG report, which is based on information obtained from a YouGov survey of those affected, concludes that the various trusts set up to provide assistance have “reduced victims to tears.”
The APPG calls upon the Government to rethink its approach to compensation schemes and ensure all the contaminated hepatitis C victims are provided with “sufficient recompense to live a comfortable life, rather than one just above the poverty line.”