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Developments in Contaminated Blood Support January 2017

In December and January there have been a number of developments in the Government’s implementation of their new Contaminated Blood policy and the process for the creation of a new scheme administrator. The new annual payments to primary beneficiaries have been made, more clarity has been provided to beneficiaries in Wales and Northern Ireland, the separation of the Scottish scheme is underway and the policy for the £10,000 bereaved partner payment was announced.

There has, as yet, been no more detail on the new discretionary support scheme or the Special Category Mechanism for people at Stage 1.

The Society continues to work with MPs and Lords, mainly, through the APPG on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, we have had meetings with Department of Health (DH) officials, serve on the DH Infected Blood reference group and attended a meeting with the Health Minister responsible.

A small reshuffle of Government responsibilities took place late last year and as of January 2017, Lord (James) O’Shaughnessy is now the Health Minister with responsibility for Contaminated Blood policy[1].

New Scheme Administrator

The Government intended to launch a tender process for a new scheme administrator at the start of November. It was originally expected that the process could be completed including the handover with the existing scheme administrators by the end of May 2017[2].

However, the tender has still not been published meaning that it is far more likely that the new scheme administrator will not be in place until later this year, at the earliest. We understand that the existing scheme administrators will continue to provide both the discretionary and non-discretionary support until a new administrator is appointed.

We have asked to DH to provide an update to beneficiaries on the timeline and confirm that there will be no immediate changes to the support they receive or the ceasing of support in April 2017.

The Haemophilia Society continues to argue that it is of utmost importance that the new supplier understands the complex needs of scheme beneficiaries and deals with all correspondence and applications in a sympathetic way[3]. We still hope the DH will reconsider the suitability of an open tender process which would allow a commercial enterprise to administer the scheme.

Bereaved Payments

In December the Government published the criteria for the new £10,000 lump sum payment for bereaved partners of individuals who died as a result of their HIV or Hep C infection.

We have argued that the policy as published[4] sets too high a bar for burden of evidence and excludes many individuals who despite living with and caring for their partner for many years may not be eligible if they do not meet the five criteria in the policy.

We oppose this policy as announced.

Additionally, the Government and the scheme administrators need to be clear that this payment does not replace any ongoing discretionary support that bereaved partners receive and that such support will still be part of the new discretionary support scheme. The Society would strongly oppose any further proposals to reduce the support available to bereaved partners.

Discretionary Support

The Government have confirmed that during the 2017-18 financial year the current discretionary support schemes will be replaced with a new scheme with “a set of criteria that applies to infected and affected as consistently and as practicable as possible” [5].

We are concerned that some people currently receiving discretionary support may lose out under the new scheme. However, the overall funding for discretionary support will remain the same in 2017-18 and should be better funded from April 2018 onwards[6]. It is, therefore, our expectation that many people will continue to get support as they do now under the new scheme and we are campaigning and working with DH officials to ensure that no one is worse off.

It would not be acceptable for the Government to go back on its promise that no one will be worse off under the new scheme. Furthermore, the Society is frustrated that the DH have not been able to provide any reassurance to beneficiaries and we regret that communication has been inadequate on when and how things will change.

Scotland

The existing scheme administrators have made interim payments to beneficiaries who fall under the Scottish scheme. Beneficiaries will be written to by the existing scheme administrators with details of how to transfer to the Scottish scheme and how to have their details passed to the new scheme administrator in Scotland, NHS National Services Scotland (NSS). NSS will be responsible for the Scottish Scheme from April 2017[7].

Wales

In Wales the English scheme has been adopted as an interim measure for 2016/17. Further engagement with beneficiaries on a reformed scheme has taken place which will take effect from April 2017[8].

Northern Ireland

The Department of Health announced in December that beneficiaries in Northern Ireland will fall under the English scheme[9]. They should receive the increased annual payments for 2016-17 shortly if they haven’t already. Discretionary support will be provided through the existing scheme administrators until the new scheme administrator is in place as described above.


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/people/lord-oshaughnessy

[2] Supplier Day Slides 26092016 slide 17 https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/580180d0-5cf3-4eb1-b7c7-07241fc95e84

[3] http://www.haemophilia.org.uk/news/view?id=80

[4]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/578247/Infected_blood_payment_outcome_A.pdf

[5] Infected blood: Government Response to Consultation on Reform of Financial and Other Support Page 21 sections 3.20-3.24 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/539993/Consultation_response_acc.pdf

[6] Ibid

[7] https://nhsnss.org/services/practitioner/medical/scottish-infected-blood-support-scheme/

[8] http://gov.wales/about/cabinet/cabinetstatements/2016-new/bloodservice/?lang=en

[9] https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/michelle-oneill-announces-improved-financial-support-people-affected-by-contaminated-blood

Jefferson Courtney

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