Contaminated blood payments in Scotland to come out of central funds

Richard LyleRichard Lyle MSP is a parliamentary champion for people affected by the contaminated blood disaster. At a recent meeting of the Health and Sport Committee he asked what provisions the Scottish Government have made to improve financial support payments.

Once of the most interesting things he discovered was that, if any of the recommendations from the review group are accepted, the new money will come from central funds.  This means that local health boards will not face an insidious choice between current healthcare services and the moral duty to those affected by the contaminated blood disaster.

This is in contrast to suggestions south of the border that any new money for improved payments there would reduce the funds available for front-line services.

It is also clear that a final decision on whether or not to implement the recommendations has not been taken yet.  It is vital that as many people as possible contact their local MSPs to ask them to lobby for improvements to the financial support payments.  We must make sure that there is strong, cross party, support for the campaign in the Scottish Parliament.

Read the full exchange here,

The Scottish Parliament Official Report
Health and Sport Committee 05 January 2016

Richard Lyle: If you walk into a hospital—as I had to do over the New Year—and look up at the signs, you can see all the different services that are being provided. Last year, our budget for health reached £12 billion; this year, our budget will reach £13 billion, and I compliment the health secretary on that. The territorial boards and the special health boards are going to get over £500 million more. There are also other factors. Can I go slightly off-message for a second? One third of your budget is spent on health. Since I have the opportunity—I cannot pass it up—I want to mention that we will shortly have a discussion about the Penrose inquiry, which, as we all know, is to do with the blood products disaster. People may make substantial claims. Will those claims be paid out of individual boards’ budgets, or will the claims be made against the health system as a whole? Mr Gray or Mr Matheson may want to enlighten me as to whether we are insured for that. The amount could reach something like £50 million or more for Scotland alone, although that may be a figure that was plucked out of the air and people may dispute it. What are we doing to address that issue? I do not see it covered in the draft budget at all; indeed, I am sure that it will not be. However, we cannot suddenly find that money. Where will it come from? Can you enlighten me about that?

Shona Robison: I will let John Matheson say a word about litigation and how the NHS handles that more generally in a second. On the positive side, we received a report just before Christmas from the review group that was set up under Ian Welsh’s chairmanship to make recommendations on the financial provisions for people who have been affected by contaminated blood and blood products. That series of recommendations is quite far-reaching. The recommendations are to substantially enhance both the one-off payments for people at stage 1 of illness and the on-going payments for people who have the greatest healthcare needs. There is also other support for widows, support in the form of one-off hardship payments and so on. It is a substantial package. Resources have been set aside within the budget to meet the needs of those who are affected. At the moment, I am considering the recommendations and I will make an announcement about them in due course. However, I will put on the record—as I have done previously—that I am absolutely determined to ensure that we provide a better level of support to people in Scotland with regard to some of the hardships that I have been told about very directly by those who have been affected and their families. Obviously, I am not responsible for what happens elsewhere, but I am determined to make those improvements here in Scotland. As regards litigation and court cases, there has already been some litigation around the issue. John Matheson may want to say a word on that.

John Matheson: We have a general clinical negligence insurance scheme, which is used primarily for obstetric and gynaecological cases—they tend to be the prime examples. Money is allocated to boards, which pay a premium. In my almost eight years in this role, I have moved from the traditional position, in which a lump-sum payment was made, to the position in which a reduced lump-sum payment is made for housing and transport adaptations and then an annual payment is made for the lifetime of the individual affected. As well as dealing with the cost of the legal claim, the key factor is to learn lessons from clinical practice to ensure that we reduce the chances of such a situation, which has caused such tragic events and in which the NHS has accepted that it has been negligent, happening again. With regard to infected blood patients, we have been making some payments in parallel with England. As the cabinet secretary said, a sum has been set aside centrally—not in the board allocations—to meet those costs going forward.

Richard Lyle: How much is that central sum?

John Matheson: As we have not yet concluded negotiations, it would be inappropriate to say.

Shona Robison: I am looking at the recommendations. If I accept them, resources will be made available to meet them. However, John Matheson has made an important point. Around £30 million has already been paid to the Skipton fund and the other fund. This is all done on a UK basis, and we pay our share for Scottish recipients into those funds.

Richard Lyle: I have a final question, but first I want to thank the cabinet secretary very much, because I know that, like me, the Government has been working hard on this issue. Can people be assured that any funding that is required will be made available?

Shona Robison: Yes, and I certainly want to recognise the work that you and the campaigners have done on this area. Indeed, when I was a member of the committee, it was one of the earliest issues that we looked at. It has certainly been a long-standing matter. The recommendations have been brought together by the group on the basis of compromise. I am not going to sit here and say that everyone is happy with them, but they are born out of pragmatic discussions that have been led by the people affected. Those recommendations are now with me, and if any of them are accepted, we will absolutely ensure that the resources are there to meet them.

Richard Lyle: Thank you.

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