Government appoints barrister to lead review of compensation framework

Sir Robert Francis QC has been appointed to look at options for a compensation framework for victims of the contaminated blood scandal and their families.

The appointment was announced by the Paymaster General, Penny Mordaunt, who said she was confident that Sir Robert would bring “integrity and thoughtful consideration” to the role.

Sir Robert, 71, who recently retired from regular practice, is a barrister who specialised in medical law, including medical and mental health treatment and capacity issues, professional discipline, and claims for damages in clinical negligence cases. He chaired the two Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust inquiries and has considerable experience of working on public inquiries.

There will now be wider engagement about the terms of reference of this study, which will be finalised following consultation between Sir Robert and those infected and affected. Sir Robert will report back to the Paymaster General with recommendations on potential options for a compensation framework design before the Infected Blood Inquiry reports in 2022.

Speaking to members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, Ms Mordaunt acknowledged that the financial implications of a compensation deal for the UK Government were of a “profound” scale. She emphasised that the compensation review would have those infected and affected “at its heart” and said she wanted to avoid the study becoming a “drawn-out, bureaucratic” process. Ms Mordaunt said: “It is important this is shaped by the people it is ultimately going to serve.”

She made clear that the compensation review would not be tinkering with existing support payments. She told the APPG and its guests: “It is not there to remove support, it is there to do something different.”

Clive Smith, chair of The Haemophilia Society, said: “The appointment of Sir Robert Francis QC is a welcome and considered appointment. Sir Robert’s extensive experience of inquiries will bring great expertise, fairness and compassion to the role.  I hope he will engage with all parts of our community to ensure that every aspect of the hugely complex and emotive issue of compensation is thoroughly explored. The Haemophilia Society looks forward to working with him to make sure our members’ voices are heard.”

Support payment update

Ms Mordaunt also told the APPG that letters would be sent to the devolved nations next week confirming financial arrangements, allowing payments to start to be made potentially within weeks. She suggested that most new or increased payments should be made by the summer, but there was a note of caution that some of the more complicated payments would take longer to sort out. All revised payments will be paid by the end of 2021. Ms Mordaunt said she was keen to “pick up the pace” but emphasised that issues such as financial support for bereaved parents had not been forgotten, even though they were not included in the recent payments uplift.

Contact Sir Robert

Anyone who wants to write to Sir Robert regarding the compensation study should email ibcompframeworkstudy@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

The Haemophilia Society will publish another update as soon as more details are confirmed. You can read more about Sir Robert’s appointment here.