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'This isn't about money, people died': Infected blood victim calls Jeremy Hunt payout announcement 'sinister'

19 May 2024, 08:29 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 09:31

Infected blood victim Bill Wright has criticised the payout scheme
Infected blood victim Bill Wright has criticised the payout scheme. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Kit Heren

A victim of the infected blood scandal has criticised the Chancellor's compensation announcement, telling LBC that it "isn't about money... thousands of people died".

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Tens of thousands of people were infected with contaminated blood or blood products between the 1970s and early 1990s. Around 3,000 are known to have died, but many more who unwittingly contracted hepatitis C may also have died.

The scandal - dubbed the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS - has been the subject of the biggest ever public inquiry in the UK.

Jeremy Hunt announced the compensation money the day before the inquiry announces its final report on Monday.

Bill Wright warned LBC's Matthew Wright that the government's payout should not take focus away from the human aspect of the scandal. Mr Hunt said that he wanted to have "close engagement" with the victims and their families.

Read More: Jeremy Hunt says £10bn infected blood payouts fulfil promise to constituent who died due to scandal

Read More: What is the infected blood scandal? What you need to know about 'worst NHS treatment disaster'

"I think tomorrow will be an earthquake" says chairman of Haemophilia Scotland

Mr Wright, who was given infected blood in the 1980s and has recently been diagnosed with liver cancer, said: "This is quite a sinister move by government to try and talk today and tomorrow about money. This is about people, this is about thousands of people dying.

"This is about thousands of people being not just physically harmed, or very badly meant mentally harmed.

"This is about people who've asked questions like me over the years, and places where questions do not want to be asked."

Mr Wright, the chairman of advocacy group Haemophilia Scotland, was given contaminated Factor 8 blood in 1986.

He developed hepatitis C, and two years later was told he may have only ten years to live.

Mr Wright said: "I have found since over the years, that there were many people who like me, who were completely isolated.

"You know, you didn't know what was happening with other people. And one of the things we've learned, of course, is that some people went for years, possibly even decades in ignorance, that they contracted the virus, because no medical professional told them that."

Mr Wright went on several different drugs to try to cure his hepatitis, and eventually in 2015 found one that worked for him.

But his liver had been scarred and he was left with cirrhosis, and in the past couple of months was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, a kind of liver cancer.

He said that Monday's report announcement would be an "earthquake".

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech in Westminster in London, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech in Westminster in London, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth). Picture: Alamy

Announcing a compensation package for victims in an interview in The Sunday Times, Mr Hunt told of how he promised to "sort" a fair and full settlement during a meeting with campaigner Mike Dorricott in 2014.

Mr Dorricott was 46 at the time, and had learned just weeks before meeting Mr Hunt that he had terminal liver cancer - a disease linked to the hepatitis C he contracted as a teenager from contaminated Factor 8 blood products.

After telling his family the news that he only had months to live, he visited the then health secretary, Mr Hunt, in Whitehall.

He told the future Chancellor he was angry that infected patients and their families had not received a full and fair settlement.

Towards the end of the meeting, Mr Hunt shook his hand and said: "Don't worry about this, we'll sort it."

Just a few months later, Mr Dorricott died, aged just 47.

Mr Hunt told The Sunday Times that a new compensation package - expected to be at least £10 billion - for those affected by the scandal will be "thanks to Mike more than anyone else".

He added: And it's one of the saddest things that he's not around to see it."

The Chancellor told the paper that Mr Dorricott was "so gentle, so decent".

Infected blood victims and campaigners protest on College Green in Westminster, London calling for action on compensation payments for victims of the infected blood scandal. Picture date: Wednesday February 28, 2024.
Infected blood victims and campaigners protest on College Green in Westminster, London calling for action on compensation payments for victims of the infected blood scandal. Picture date: Wednesday February 28, 2024. Picture: Alamy

"I imagine after that meeting that Mike thought that he'd been fobbed off by yet another politician giving him the runaround," he said, adding: "But what Mike didn't know was that he really had made a huge impression on me."

Mr Hunt said the money will be funded through Government borrowing, and that the package could be unveiled as soon as Tuesday - when the final report of the inquiry is due to be published.

He said the Government would look "very sympathetically" on any request from the victims or families for a national memorial.

"What we want to do after Monday is very close engagement with all the families who've been through such hell and understand from them what the next steps need to be," he said.

Mr Dorricott's widow, Ann, 57, told the paper that the announcement "brings me solace".

Campaigners, including many who are personally infected and affected by infected blood, gather in Westminster, London, calling for compensation
Campaigners, including many who are personally infected and affected by infected blood, gather in Westminster, London, calling for compensation. Picture: Alamy

"It brings me solace to know that even in death, Mike continues to make a difference," she said.

"He was a pillar of strength, fighting for justice until his last breath and his absence is deeply felt every day.

"I know that Mike always held Jeremy Hunt in high regard, and even though it has taken 10 years, he would be pleased that justice is finally being delivered to the victims."

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