This Note summarises the background and current areas of debate relating to an episode of HIV and Hepatitis C infection from contaminated blood and blood products during the 1970s and 1980s. This includes existing support for those affected, the recommendations of an independent inquiry on this matter (the Archer Inquiry), and ongoing debate relating to levels of support in comparison with other countries.Jump to full report >>
• During the 1970s and early 1980s some blood and blood products supplied by the NHS, mostly to haemophilia sufferers, were contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C. More than 4500 patients contracted one or both of these diseases as a result, of whom over 2000 are thought to have died.
• No-fault government payment schemes were established to provide support for those affected. These have been criticised as being insufficient but successive Governments have rejected calls for an independent inquiry and additional compensation. A non-statutory inquiry funded from private donations, the Archer Inquiry, reported in February 2009. Amongst its recommendations was a call for reform of support for those affected, in line with a scheme used in the Republic of Ireland.
• The Irish scheme offers substantially higher payments than the UK schemes but successive Governments have rejected comparability on the basis that the Irish scheme was established to compensate victims for wrongdoing by a government agency but that no similar wrongdoing occurred in the UK. An April 2010 judicial review of the previous Government’s response to the Archer Inquiry questioned that assertion and the current Government responded with a proposal to review aspects of support, while restating a rejection of the Irish model.
• On 10 January 2011 the Government announced an increase in payments to some of those infected with Hepatitis C, removed a provision preventing payments for Hepatitis C patients deceased before 29 August 2003, and offered additional medical and psychological support for those with Hepatitis C and/or HIV. These new measures currently apply to patients in England and are estimated to be worth £100-130M. While the measures were welcomed as a step in the right direction by some contaminated blood activists and their supporters, remaining concerns include the level of payments relative to the Republic of Ireland, and how entitlement to discretionary payments will be assessed.
Commons Briefing papers SN05698
Author: Gavin Colthart
Topic: Communicable diseases