Today, there are two important events for individuals and families affected by the contaminated blood disaster.
Firstly, it is the funeral of one of our members. He fought a long battle with hepatitis C including through a life saving liver transplant. His cheerful positivity and his triumphs against the virus, and its impacts, over many years were truly inspirational. He was a valued contributor to our hepatitis C information day last year where he generously shared his experiences. Our thoughts are with his loving family and many friends today. He will be deeply missed.
Before he died he received the news that the Scottish Government would be implementing the Scottish proposals to improve the financial support available to those affected by the Scottish contaminated blood disaster. The other event today is about trying to make sure others battling the viruses can receive similar news.
There are 20 people living is Scotland who were infected during the disaster in England. In addition, there are five bereaved families in Scotland whose loved one died following an infection in England. These individuals and families will not be entitled to the new, Scottish payments. Instead they are reliant on the outcome of the financial support review in England. In addition to a questionnaire, which anyone with a view on the English proposals can complete, their will be a backbench debate and protest in Westminster today. You can watch the debate live online. It is currently expected to start at 3pm but it is subject to the rest of the business of the House of Commons staying on time.
Haemophilia Scotland will be responding to the consultation and has been providing information to Scottish MPs in advance of the debate to highlight the needs of our members who were infected in England.
Commenting in advance of the debate, Dan Farthing-Sykes, Haemophilia Scotland CEO said,
We are extremely concerned that the English proposals appear to be roughly half as well funded as those in Scotland. Are members who were infected in Scotland should be able to expect at least equivalent support from the Westminster Government – particularly the key events of this disaster considerably predates devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliament.
We are concerned that the English proposals will amount to cuts in support for those who are most ill and those who are on the lowest incomes. If the index link for those who receive on-going support is broken then within 5 years those whose health has been damaged the most will be worse off. Similarly, if discretionary grants are abolished then those whose who have the least will be hit hardest. The English proposals also contain no improvement in support for widows and widowers, many of whom have had to give up careers as well as nurse their dying partners. These are the sorts of concerns we hope will come out during the debate and force the Department of Health (England) to bring forward significantly improved proposals.
I hope the protest outside parliament today, organised to coincide with the backbench debate, will help make it clear to MPs of all parties that the proposals being consulted on by the Department of Health fall woefully short.
Haemophilia Scotland is also working with bereaved families in Scotland to raise money for a lasting memorial to those taken by the contaminated blood disaster. All donations towards this worthy cause will be gratefully received.