Letter from Kate Burt, Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society

Written by Aaron Dennis, May 31, 2023

Kate Burt, Chief Executive at the Haemophilia Society, shares her response to The Spectator’s article on compensation and contaminated blood, published on 29 May.

Dr Philip Mortimer appears to reinforce the attempt by government officials to use the current public services funding crisis to undermine the Infected Blood Inquiry’s recent recommendation that people infected, bereaved and damaged as a result of the contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 80s should be entitled to compensation as soon as possible. (Spectator 29 May ‘How much compensation should contaminated blood victims get?’).

More than 3,000 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders have died as a result of receiving NHS blood products which were contaminated with HIV and hepatitis viruses. Thousands more died following infected blood transfusions. Their families continue to wait for an explanation of how and why this treatment disaster happened. Meanwhile the dwindling number of survivors face declining health and an uncertain future. This was not as Dr Mortimer claimed ‘occasional malpractice’ or ‘bad luck’ but what the Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry Sir Brian Langstaff identified as individual, collective and systemic failure. Sir John Major subsequently apologised for using the phrase ‘bad luck’ when giving evidence to the inquiry.

Today, forty years after the contaminated blood crisis emerged, this government is, quite rightly, facing a substantial compensation bill. This is not the fault of those who were infected and their families, nor should it be used as an excuse for underfunding key services.

Blame for this catastrophic failure lies at the door of every government since the late 1970s who refused to take responsibility when things went wrong. Had government acted quickly to acknowledge the mistakes that were made, the emotional and financial cost of this scandal would have been greatly reduced.

The Infected Blood Inquiry has shone a light on the suffering and damage caused not only by decisions made four decades ago, but by subsequent delays and denials from government and other bodies ever since. 

The government has not learnt the lessons of this scandal and continues to focus on the cost of the crisis rather than the value of compensation to those who remain, this article reinforces this failure. Government must do the right thing and pay full and fair compensation to those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal as soon as possible. 

Kate Burt

Chief Executive

The Haemophilia Society, London SE1 1XN

[email protected]