Victims of the contaminated blood scandal – some of whom are nearing the end of their lives – should receive interim payments of at least £100,000 each, according to a new plan sent to ministers.
Sir Robert Francis QC, who has led a review of compensation for those affected by the scandal, said there were “potentially eligible applicants who are now of advanced years or worryingly unwell”.
He added: “There are those who fear they will not survive long enough to see, let alone enjoy, the fruits of an award of compensation.
“This is a principle reason why I have recommended the unusual measure of an immediate interim award to those infected persons who are already beneficiaries of the existing support schemes, in anticipation of, but before, the scheme has been set up.”
He suggested payments should be made now which reflect the minimum an infected person could be expected to receive under a final compensation scheme.
“I have suggested this is unlikely to be less than £100,000 in any case,” he added.
Most of those involved had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia and relied on regular injections of the blood product Factor VIII to survive.
These patients were unaware they were receiving contaminated Factor VIII and, despite repeated warnings at the top of government, continued to be given the product throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Sir Robert said that, without prejudicing the outcome of the ongoing inquiry into the disaster, there would be a “strong moral case” for of offering compensation to victims, independent of any issue of legal liability or culpability, if certain criteria were met.
This included an acceptance that the transmission of infection to these patients could have been avoided, the harm caused had been “devastating and lifelong”, and that those who have been injured were not given reliable information about the infection, treatment, or not given informed choices.
Other criteria included that “in a civilised and humane society, it is right for governments to recognise and offer a remedy for those who have suffered through no fault of their own from the actions of the State, or indeed natural disasters.”
Des Collins, a senior partner at Collins Solicitors, which is advising over 1,500 victims of the infected blood scandal, said: “At long last, in Sir Robert’s report, it’s clear the Government is encouraged to recognise the need to compensate the thousands of victims of this terrible scandal.
“The report is a considered piece of work that deserves recognition and scrutiny in equal measure.
“However, at first glance the recommendations appear to contain sensible solutions to many of the problems that have beset the victims for over 40 years.
“In many ways those who have suffered so much for so long will take some comfort from this report although, as always, the devil will be in the detail which we have not yet had the opportunity to examine.”
Cabinet Office minister, Michael Ellis, said in a written statement to Parliament: “There is a great deal of complexity to the issues that the study covers and a wide range of factors to be taken into account in considering Sir Robert’s recommendations.
“This analysis cannot be completed hurriedly but officials across government are focussing on this so that the government can be ready to respond quickly to the Inquiry’s recommendations, as was intended when the study was commissioned.
“I will update the House as this work progresses.”
To date, the Government has only set up a support scheme offering payments without any admission of liability.