Northern Ireland officials urged to use earmarked funds for contaminated blood victims

Written by Aaron Dennis, November 28, 2019

The Haemophilia Society has written to three of the most senior civil servants in Northern Ireland asking them to pass on desperately needed funds to victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

People infected as a result of contaminated blood products in Northern Ireland are missing out on tens of thousands of pounds in financial support compared to victims in England, simply because they were infected in Northern Ireland. Now The Haemophilia Society is calling on the country’s most senior civil servants to make sure money allocated to the victims by the UK Government is given to them.

The letter, sent jointly to Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary in the Department of Finance and David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, asks why money given by the Government in September to help people infected in Northern Ireland as a result of contaminated blood products has not yet been received.

There are big differences in the amount of financial support victims of the contaminated blood scandal receive with those infected in Northern Ireland receiving the least in the UK, followed by Wales. Someone in Northern Ireland with hepatitis C stage 1 will get a maximum of £4,500 a year from the Infected Blood Support Scheme, but in England the payment is £18,458, rising to £28,000 if it can be shown the virus is having an impact on day to day living.

In September, Chancellor Sajid Javid gave £400m to Northern Ireland as part of his Spending Review and, although health is a devolved matter, requested that some of the money be spent on “those who have been tragically wronged in the contaminated blood scandal”.

The Haemophilia Society, a charity which represents people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders across the UK, is concerned that so far nothing has been passed on to people infected as a result of treatment with contaminated blood products.

Liz Carroll, CEO of The Haemophilia Society, said: “Inequalities in the devolved systems of support mean people infected through contaminated blood in Northern Ireland receive the lowest amount of financial help in the UK, which is insulting and unacceptable.

“We believe that the funds are available in Northern Ireland to address this grossly unfair disparity right now and urge Mr Pengelly, Ms Gray and Mr Sterling to do all they can to ensure this happens.”

Trevor Marsden, a member of The Haemophilia Society, who lives in County Antrim, contracted hepatitis C as a result of treatment with contaminated blood products for his haemophilia B. He receives a stage 1 annual payment of £4,500 a year. He said: “I get thousands of pounds less each year in financial support than those infected in England in exactly the same way. It’s shameful and discriminatory that victims in Northern Ireland have been treated so callously. We were all infected by treatment from National Health Service and therefore, should all be receiving national support.

“Me and my family have suffered financial hardship because of my hepatitis C infection. We shouldn’t have to constantly beg for reasonable financial support that, by right, we are entitled to.”

The Haemophilia Society is part of a group of organisations and campaigners which is working to achieve parity of financial support across Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.

Read the letter from Liz Carroll to Richard Pengelly, Sue Gray and David Sterling here.