Thank you to everyone who made it along to the Mercure in Glasgow at the start of the month for the latest of our regular joint campaign meetings with the Scottish Infected Blood Forum (SIBF).
The meeting started with minutes silences for Philip Dolan and for the wife of one another campaigner, both of whom passed away recently. The campaign continues to lose friends and family with distressing frequency and they are sorely missed.
Recapping on the Infected Blood Hearings in Edinburgh
The meeting gave its thanks to all involved in giving evidence and to the audience for supporting the witnesses. There will now be three weeks of hearings in London in October. If anyone is interested in attending these, they can sign up through the Inquiry website.
The hearings have shown that despite the variety of experiences and a number of faults identified, there has been a pattern which was not limited to one person. Trying to rebuild trust with the medical profession after all these years is extremely difficult for many.
Written statements were raised in the meeting. Thompsons Solicitors are still meeting with people to obtain their statements. Several people told the meeting that after the hearings in Edinburgh they realised there were aspects of their own statements that were not covered. Anyone with significant matters can contact Thompsons Solicitors, or their own legal team if they are represented by a different firm, to advise on their wishes. Those without legal representation will need to talk to the Inquiry themselves if this applies to them.
The Inquiry continues to offer support through the Red Cross. However, if you need more support then arrangements can be made in Scotland. Those in bleeding disorders families can go through their Haemophilia Centre or talk to Haemophilia Scotland about being referred to the psychosocial support service. For those with a blood transfusion transmission route, the SIBF can help with liaising SIBSS about funding for private counselling.
Interim Financial Support
Bill Wright gave an overview of the efforts that are in place to secure improvement to the financial support for the duration of the Inquiry. After the intervention of Sir Brian as the Chair it had been hoped that improvements to financial support would be made pending a formal recommendation from the Inquiry.
The Chancellor has promised an extra £400 million for the NHS for which there are hopes that some of this will be spent on the infected blood matters. If new money was made available for Scotland through a barnett consequential then our expectation is that the Scottish Government would want to consult with those infected and affected before deciding how to use it.
Improvements to the SIBSS
The Scottish Government are going to increase payments from next April at the rate of inflation but the precise mechanism is not yet agreed.
The meeting discussed the idea of conducting some sort of evaluation of the self categorisation process for chronic payments. Most people who spoke about this at the meeting through the process had worked reasonably well. Going forward people will be asked to confirm their affected status if they are new to the scheme, anyone on the scheme won’t be asked to justify anything, only to confirm they are still at this same address.
Other deficiencies of the Scottish scheme were also discussed. In particular, the unfairness of removing widows pension payment from those who remarry. Also if someone who ends up in jail, their payments are suspended, so their family members don’t get the benefits.
A senior Scottish reporting team hare looking at doing some in depth coverage of the disaster, campaign, and Inquiry. This could take the form of a documentary. If anyone has evidence or would like to be part of this please get in touch with Haemophilia Scotland, SIBF, or Thompsons Solicitors. Participation can be anonymous but we are particularly keen to find people who are happy to speak in front of the camera too.
The Contaminated Blood Memorial
There was a discussion of the memorial and issues that have been raised about where it should be placed. It will not be placed in Princes Street Gardens. There is an ongoing discussion about whether the Scottish Parliament might be able to provide a suitable home but there are a wide range of views to consider. The memorial fund has now raised almost £30,000.
The next quarterly meeting will take place in early December. It is likely to be in Edinburgh but date, time, and venue will be confirmed nearer the time.
Produced with grateful thanks to Stephanie Spencer of Thompsons Solicitors Scotland who provided the notes for this report.