Contaminated Blood and Blood Products

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:51 am on 24th November 2016.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North 11:51 am, 24th November 2016

I beg to move,

That this House
notes the Government’s recent announcement on the reform of the support schemes for people affected by contaminated blood and blood products;
recognises that the contaminated blood scandal was one of the biggest treatment disasters in the history of the NHS;
believes that those people affected should have a reasonable standard of living and not just be removed from poverty;
is concerned that bereaved partners of people who died with HIV/AIDS and those reliant on regular top-up payments will be worse off;
is concerned that the new payments for people infected with Hepatitis C are not commensurate with the pain and suffering caused;
notes that people who were infected with other viruses, those who did not reach the chronic stage of Hepatitis C and bereaved parents are not mentioned in this announcement;
and calls on the Government to use the funds from the sale of Plasma Resources UK to bring forward revised proposals that are properly funded and which provide appropriate support to all affected people.

I thank Members of the Backbench Business Committee, who, since the Committee was established, have always been very generous in recognising the importance of this issue to many of our constituents. This is the third Backbench Business debate that we have had on the subject.

It is more than 45 years since the first people were infected with HIV, hepatitis C and other viruses from NHS-supplied blood products. Their lives, and those of their families, were changed forever by this tragedy. The contaminated blood scandal is now rightly recognised as a grave injustice—the worst treatment disaster in the history of our country’s health service—but those affected are still waiting for a proper financial settlement that recognises the full effect that the scandal has had on them and on their families. This group of people have campaigned for far too many years for justice, at the same time as dealing with illness and disability.

The current financial support for those affected is simply not fit for purpose. That stark fact was laid bare in the inquiry of the all-party group on haemophilia and contaminated blood in January 2015. This quote is on the first page of our report:

“You can’t give us back our health. But you can give us back our dignity. This tortured road has been too long for many of us. But for the rest of us, please let this be the final road to closure.”

Thankfully, we all now agree that the current support arrangements cannot continue, and that we need to create a scheme that gives this community back their dignity.

I welcome the efforts made by the former Prime Minister when he was in office. I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Nicola Blackwood, to her new post and I welcome Lord Prior of Brampton to his new position. I was happy to meet him last week, alongside other APPG members, to discuss the new support arrangements.

Although we are all agreed on the need for a reformed scheme, I cannot agree with the Department of Health that its proposed settlement is sufficient. The purpose of this debate is to highlight the aspects of the new support scheme that will not provide the support that these people need, following the hasty announcement made by the former Prime Minister as he left office in July 2016.

In my speech, I want to stress five key issues that the Department of Health urgently needs to address. The first issue concerns the differences between the country schemes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We need to know what support people in all four countries of the United Kingdom will get. While Scotland and England have set out their own separate support schemes, in Wales and especially in Northern Ireland people desperately need some certainty about the help they will receive.