Contaminated Blood

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:34 pm on 12th April 2016.

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Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 6:34 pm, 12th April 2016

I am sorry. I have made a note in the margin of my speech to respond directly to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, if I can get to it. I will try to deal with all the points that were made, and if I do not, I will write to Members after the debate.

The Scottish Government have chosen to provide a lump sum payment, and they currently have no proposals for annual payments to the hepatitis C stage 1 group. To give an idea of the difference, in England, over a five-year period, a stage 1 hep C sufferer who currently gets nothing but is awarded the highest proposed annual payment of £15,000 would receive £75,000. Officials from the Department of Health and the Scottish Government continue to exchange views on scheme reform, and we will reflect on the points that have been made today.

Let me touch briefly on the point about Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a matter for the Welsh and Northern Irish Governments to decide how support is provided for those infected in their areas, but they could opt to make the same reforms as the Department of Health and, indeed, participate in some administration arrangements following scheme reform. My officials hosted a meeting on 24 March with officials from each of the devolved Administrations to discuss scheme reform, and they will continue to work with their counterparts from the DAs on that.

Let me touch on treatment. I understand the points that have been made. Since I launched the consultation in January, the NHS has committed to doubling the number of patients treated with new therapies to 10,000 in 2016-17. NHS England has allocated £190 million from its budgets for 2016-17 for rolling out treatment with these new therapies. I will take into account this significant recent development, along with the responses to the consultation, when making decisions on treatment and payment for it from the scheme’s allocated fund when the consultation has closed. I have noted the clear steers Members have given me about treatment being taken forward by the NHS. I emphasise, however, that legally, the NHS cannot prioritise patients according to route of infection, and can only do so according to clinical need, as Members will understand.

Turning to where we go next, the outcome of the consultation will be crucial in informing our final decisions on how to proceed. We will analyse and reflect on all the responses, and although the scheduling of a debate is not in my gift I will seek to provide an opportunity for colleagues to discuss the proposals with me before any final decisions are made. I will continue to keep Opposition Front-Bench teams closely informed, as I have sought to do throughout. I give the House, and those affected, my commitment that we will proceed as rapidly as possible to implementation. However, I recognise that any reforms must be implemented in a measured way, to give those affected time to adjust, and at the same time ensure that there is no disruption to the provision of ongoing support.

I said when announcing the consultation that my intention was that the new annual payments for the current stage 1 cohort should be backdated to April—this month—regardless of when an individual’s assessment took place. I stress that we are very keen that any assessment is simple and light touch. We do not anticipate any interaction with the benefits system, but I will raise with the Department for Work and Pensions the points made by Andrew Gwynne in his thoughtful contribution. We are aiming for simple, light-touch assessments every few years, and if someone’s health deteriorates we want to be able to respond appropriately.

I have tried to address some of the concerns, but I am conscious that I have not covered all of them. After the debate I will review them and respond if I can. I hope Sir Gerald Kaufman will appreciate that I am not able to answer the points that he raised before the end of the debate.

The consultation will be genuinely open and I urge everyone with an interest to respond. I hope to take matters forward in a constructive and open way.