The Government will wait for the full report into the infected blood scandal before considering whether to extend the compensation scheme for victims, the Prime Minister has said.
It comes after the chairman of the inquiry into the "worst treatment disaster in the NHS" said that the interim compensation scheme should be widened so more people – including orphaned children and parents who lost children – could be compensated. Under the initial scheme victims themselves or bereaved partners can receive an interim payment.
Asked whether he would extend the compensation scheme as recommended by the inquiry’s chairman, Rishi Sunak said: "I am grateful to the work of the independent committee for their interim recommendations – not just to the Government – that will help us and the devolved administrations ensure that we can respond appropriately to the full report when it comes."
He added: "In the interim, we have made available payments of about £100,000 for those who have been infected or bereaved.
"We will of course wait to find the full report when it comes, and then take forward recommendations as we can and will consider them then."
It has been estimated that thousands of people were infected with HIV and hepatitis by contaminated blood between 1970 and 1991.
Inquiry Recommended Compensation Scheme
In July last year, the inquiry recommended that victims of the contaminated blood scandal should receive interim compensation of £100,000. But on Wednesday, inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff, a former High Court judge, said that some family members remain "unrecognised" when it comes to compensation.
Sir Brian said that he was taking the unusual step of publishing the recommendation ahead of the publication of the full report into the scandal so that victims would not face any more delays.
"I could not in conscience add to the decades-long delays many of you have already experienced due to failures to recognise the depth of your losses," he said in his statement.
On further compensation payments, he added: "I am also recommending further interim compensation payments to recognise the deaths of people who have so far gone unrecognised, as I believe this is necessary to alleviate immediate suffering.
"It is a fact that around 380 children with bleeding disorders were infected with HIV. Some of them died in childhood," he said. "But their parents have never received compensation.
"Children who were orphaned as a result of infections transmitted by blood transfusions and blood products have never had their losses recognised."
The Government has already made interim payments of around £400 million to people infected and to bereaved partners.
The inquiry team was not able to put a figure on how many more people or their families should be eligible for compensation.
The inquiry's second interim report on compensation made a series of recommendations, including a "bespoke" psychological support service in England for victims and their loved ones, and a redress scheme to be "set up now" and run by an arm's-length body independent of Government.
'Strong Moral Case' for Government to Atone for 'the Harm Done'
Kate Burt, chief executive of the Haemophilia Society, said: "The case for swift and meaningful compensation is now beyond doubt and we welcome the recommendation that everyone, including bereaved parents and children, should receive compensation as soon as possible.
"Too much time has been wasted by politicians intent on denying the consequences of this NHS disaster.
"Now Government must atone for its shameful avoidance of this scandal and pay compensation to all those whose lives have been devastated.”
Rachel Halford, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, added: "This is a clear call to action for the Government, which lays out the strong moral case for them to accept and compensate for the harm done to everyone affected by the contaminated blood scandal."
Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors, which is representing more than 1500 victims at the inquiry, said: "Sir Brian's useful interim report is a vital intervention that should help to remove any excuse the Government may wish to find to delay righting the wrongs of the largest treatment disaster in NHS history."
Sir Brain said in his statement that "wrongs were done at individual, collective and systemic levels".
He said that "not only do the infections themselves and their consequences merit compensation, but so too do the wrongs done by authority, whose response served to compound people's suffering".
"This has been described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS, and we have much to learn as a nation to help ensure that people never suffer in a similar way again. I will be setting that out in my full report."
The inquiry was established in 2017 to examine how thousands of patients in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. About 2400 people died in what has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.
Thousands of adults and approximately 380 children received infected blood products or transfusions during treatment by the NHS, the inquiry has heard. Many had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia and were given injections of the US product Factor VIII. The inquiry has been gathering evidence and holding hearings for 4 and 1/2 years.
The last day of hearings took place on February 3 and it is expected that the final report will be published in the autumn.
This article contains information from PA Media