The government has agreed to offer £100,000 in compensation to victims of the infected blood scandal.
It comes after decades of campaigning and government denial of responsibility.
The announcement has had a mixed reception, because while survivors will now get long-overdue help and recognition, many others have already died and, apart from spouses, relatives of the dead won’t yet qualify for compensation.
The scandal has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.
Patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products imported from America. It’s thought around 2,400 people died as a result.
The government intends to make payments to those who have been infected and bereaved partners in England by the end of October. The same payments will be made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The announcement follows an interim report by Sir Brian Langstaff, chairman of the ongoing infected blood inquiry which is expected to conclude in 2023.
Andrew Evans, 45, is one of an estimated 4,000 victims who survived.
Responding to today’s announcement, he said: “Obviously, it’s a very welcome sum of money. If you split £100,000 over 40 years of being infected, it’s £2,500 a year.
“For me personally, I’ll be able to do what I want to do most, which is to secure my family’s future.
“But I’m also very aware of the people this doesn’t deal with at the moment.”
Andrew was infected through haemophilia treatments at the age of five with HIV and hepatitis C and developed AIDS at the age of 16.
His parents took him to Disneyland in a wheelchair, thinking it would be his last holiday.
He was saved by advances in AIDS treatments but throughout his childhood, he kept his condition a secret from his school friends because of public attitudes.
He said: “I think the reason behind it was the total and utter stigma that was attached to HIV at the time.
“I had friends who would wake up to nasty packages being put through the letterbox, with ‘AIDS scum’ being daubed across their house in graffiti.
“So, I kept everything completely under wraps. I told nobody at school. I didn’t tell even my best friends about it, until it became absolutely apparent that I was ill and I couldn’t hide it anymore.”
After decades of campaigning, an inquiry was launched in July 2018.
Former health secretaries and prime minister Sir John Major gave evidence.
But no one took responsibility and Sir John described those who got infected as having “incredibly bad luck”.
Campaigners argued it was incompetence – a reckless blood plasma collecting method in the US that used risky donors such as prison inmates and drug users.
The blood-clotting product called Factor VIII pooled plasma from up to 40,000 donors, adding further risk of contamination to the batches.
Sir Brian Langstaff, chair of the inquiry, recommended immediate compensation for surviving victims and spouses of those who’d died due to the “profound physical and mental suffering”.
Now the government is offering them £100,000 each.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “While nothing can make up for the pain and suffering endured by those affected by this tragic injustice, we are taking action to do right by victims and those who have tragically lost their partners by making sure they receive these interim payments as quickly as possible.
“We will continue to stand by all those impacted by this horrific tragedy, and I want to personally pay tribute to all those who have so determinedly fought for justice.”
However, there is nothing yet for people like Lauren Palmer, 38, who lost both her parents to the scandal when she was just nine years old.
Lauren’s father Stephen was given Factor VIII and died of AIDS in August 1993.
He’d unknowingly infected her mother who died in the same month.
Lauren had to be looked after by other family members. But under the government’s scheme, parents who lost children or children who lost their parents, won’t get a pay-out.
She said: “How can they have this differentiation – this hierarchy between bereaved families? I mean all their lives matter just as much as the next person.
“I haven’t been able to lead a normal life as such where I’ve had the stability of having two parents for support – to go through education and go to uni, to be able to stay at home long enough to save to put a deposit on a home.
“So, I haven’t done any of that. I’m only just going to university now.”
The intention is that payments will be tax-free and will not impact any other financial benefits a person might be getting.
This is a hard-fought victory for some, but decades late, and many who’ve suffered are still waiting for recognition.