Vaughan Gething has announced that extra financial support will be made available for people affected by the infected blood scandal as the UK government said the Welsh scheme will be brought in line with schemes across the four nations.
Following calls from the Welsh government for differences between the schemes to be resolved, the UK government has confirmed that the regular annual ex-gratia payments will be increased to the rates currently paid in England and Scotland.
“The infected blood scandal has been a dark chapter in the NHS’ history, which has had devastating and long-lasting consequences many people,” the Welsh health minister said this morning.
“For too long, the UK government had refused to recognise its responsibility to the victims and put right the disparities between the different support schemes available to the people. I’m pleased it has now corrected this disparity.”
Up to 30,000 NHS patients contracted hepatitis C, HIV and other deadly diseases after receiving contaminated blood-clotting products during the 1970s and 1980s. Victims are currently dying at the rate of one every four days.
The Wales infected blood support scheme was set up in 2017 to provide support to people who have been infected with hepatitis C and or HIV following treatment with contaminated NHS blood, blood products or tissue.
But support available to those affected has varied significantly across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. It also depends on the viruses the victims contracted, the severity of the impact and in some cases their income.
Welsh Labour candidate for Cardiff North Julie Morgan, a longstanding campaigner on the issue, said: “Too many people have had to fight for support while they are also fighting to learn the truth about why they contracted hepatitis C or HIV.
“I’m thrilled that we will finally see parity of support for the many people in Wales who have been affected by this awful scandal. But sadly, this UK Conservative government’s decision to recognise its responsibility comes too late.”
The changes today will see an increase in ex-gratia payments and money for bereaved partners backdated to April 2019, as well as lump sum payments for HIV (£80,500), hepatitis C stage one (£50,000) and stage two (£20,000) from April 2021.
An ongoing public inquiry, which began preliminary hearings in September 2018, has been looking into the infected blood scandal in the UK that saw thousands fall ill after being given contaminated blood products imported from the US.