MPs today voted for the Government to bring forward revised proposals for Contaminated Blood support and approved, without a division, a motion criticising the reformed scheme announced this summer.
In a debate in the House of Commons this afternoon on Reform of the support arrangements for people affected by contaminated blood and blood products a large number of MPs from across the political spectrum spoke in favour of the motion, calling for properly funded and appropriate support.
The response from the Government, however, largely dismissed these concerns despite the minister adding her personal apologies to those of the Government and stating that the Government was taking the issue seriously.
We hope the Government thinks again in light of today’s motion and the strength of feeling from MPs of all parties.
The debate was opened by Co-Chair of the APPG on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood Labour MP Diana Johnson. She focussed her comments on five key issues insisting on ‘a new scheme that gives this community back their dignity’. She said there must be clarity on what beneficiaries across all countries of the UK will receive. She called for a beneficiary-run not-for-profit scheme administrator, better support for bereaved partners, higher payments for primary beneficiaries and additional funding for the scheme. The Society would welcome all these changes.
Fellow Co-Chair Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley agreed that there was more to do, in particular pressing for better systems to share information on people’s conditions and circumstances among healthcare professionals and better support to cover additional costs of living with the infections. The Society would welcome his proposed meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss what more could be done.
Former Conservative Health Minister Alistair Burt, noted the protracted nature of the campaign with campaigners drained by repeated visits to parliament to raise issues. He called on the Government to find the money to provide an appropriate scheme and end “this drip, drip approach over the years [which] is just not working”.
Other speakers included Labour MP Jim McMahon who spoke passionately of the need for people to be removed from poverty and treated humanely.
Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi called for a fair and final settlement where no one is worse off, highlighted the differences in support between England and Scotland and noted concerns from people reliant on regular payments that may be discontinued under the new scheme.
SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie called for greater clarity in Northern Ireland and a long overdue full and fair settlement.
SNP MP Chris Stephens raised the point that Scottish MPs will have constituents who fall under the English Scheme but also demonstrated numerous issues in the scheme as discussed in The Haemophilia Society briefing in advance of the debate.
We welcome the support from all other MPs who spoke in the debate.
In the response from the Government, Health Minister Nicola Blackwood did say that ‘the aim of the support scheme is that nobody is worse off’, but it must be made clear that this applies to all primary beneficiaries and includes all discretionary support provided currently by the Macfarlane Trust, the Caxton Foundation and Eileen Trust.
While the concerns with the tender process for a scheme administrator and a likely profit-making company running the scheme were heard the Government would not commit to changing this plan.
The Minister confirmed that any underspend in the budget in each year of the scheme can be rolled over to the following year. However, in order for this to occur the government must commit to transparency on how much of the budget was spent in each year and how it was apportioned among beneficiaries.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to better communicate with beneficiaries on the details of the new scheme and look forward to them using networks including the UKHCDO and the Haemophilia Nurses Association to ensure all potential beneficiaries are reached.
There were no plans to include other viruses in the support schemes, make payments to people who were infected with Hepatitis C but did not reach the chronic stage of infection or take account of the impact on people who had received vCJD warning letters.
We welcomed the confirmation from the DH on the timetable for communicating with existing beneficiaries and making new annual payments.
The government will also consider the comments related to the burden of evidence required from bereaved partners to show a link between the infection and an individual cause of death.
The full motion agreed in the House of Commons today is below:
Reform of the support arrangements for people affected by contaminated blood and blood products
Sir Peter Bottomley
Ms Margaret Ritchie
Mr David Hanson
That this House notes the Government’s recent announcement on the reform of the support schemes for people affected by contaminated blood and blood products; recognises that the contaminated blood scandal was one of the biggest treatment disasters in the history of the NHS; believes that those people affected should have a reasonable standard of living and not just be removed from poverty; is concerned that bereaved partners of people who died with HIV/AIDS and those reliant on regular top-up payments will be worse off; is concerned that the new payments for people infected with Hepatitis C are not commensurate with the pain and suffering caused; notes that people who were infected with other viruses, those who did not reach the chronic stage of Hepatitis C and bereaved parents are not mentioned in this announcement; and calls on the Government to use the funds from the sale of Plasma Resources UK to bring forward revised proposals that are properly funded and which provide appropriate support to all affected people.
For further information please contact The Haemophilia Society on 0207 939 0780 or email Jeff Courtney on [email protected] or contact the office of Diana Johnson MP on 0207 219 5647 or email Tom on [email protected].