The fight for justice for haemophiliacs, whose lives were shattered after being treated with contaminated blood, is set to carry on after a government financial package announced today was branded “disgusting” by a Wythenshawe campaigner.
Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, apologised in a statement to MPs today for what has been described as the worst treatment disaster in NHS history, in which 4,670 haemophiliacs in the UK were unwittingly given blood contaminated with hepatitis C. The blood came from US sources, including drug users and prison inmates.
Among the victims were Fred Bates and Peter Mossman, from Wythenshawe, who have suffered years of ill health and financial hardship. Peter describes the scandal as “medical rape”.
In October last year, the government promised a review of the financial package for victims after rejecting calls to dramatically increase payments in line with the recommendations of an independent inquiry by Lord Archer of Sandwell into the scandal.
The review announced today includes an annual payment of £12,800 and an increase of £25,000 to a £50,000 lump sum for hepatitis sufferers who have reached the advanced stages of liver disease.
But for Peter aged 67 who does not yet qualify for the payments and Fred, 61, does qualify but the new scheme falls far short of the package they had hoped for.
Peter told the Reporter: “As far as I can see the fight has to go on because it is very disappointing. Most people I’ve spoken to about it are disgusted. To get these payments you have to be at the advanced stages, which means most people at the present time will get nothing.”
Peter, who founded the Manor House Group, which was praised by shadow public health minister, Diane Abbott, said he will be consulting other leading campaigners to discuss the way forward.
Fred’s wife Eleanor said: “The apology means a lot. A least someone has finally stood up and apologised for what has happened, but it is not enough. Fred is too tired to carry on fighting and we will use the money to do some of things we should have been doing for the last ten years.
“But it will never bring closure. How can it bring closure to some-one who has watched her husband suffer and wonder every day whether this could be the day when starts to rapidly go downhill and then watch him go through what we have watched his friends go through or whether it could be his last day, because of something that was done 25 years ago.”
Peter Mossman was treated with contaminated blood and infected with hepatitis C in 1985 after discovering bruising on his leg. Immediately afterwards he became desperately ill and later suffered worsening bleeds and severe liver damage.
Fred Bates was only told about his infection after reading a leaflet in 1993. He was told “to go home, and that there was nothing to worry about.”
Fred and Peter have said they would never have consented to treatment with contaminated blood products which carried a high risk of infection with HIV and hepatitis C. However, for Peter and Fred, it is not only the doctors who failed to explain the dangers – the whole health system was caught up in what amounts to a conspiracy of silence.