Alistair Burt MP, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, invited those affected by the contaminated blood disaster to come to London for a meeting today. Despite holding two such meetings on successive days there have been many more people who wanted to go than have been able to get in.
Mr Burt introduced the meeting making it clear that the MPs who were attending all had constituents who had brought the issue to them. They all recognised that the issue had not been successfully resolved by successive Governments. He said that he had been able to engage the Prime Minister in the issue but their wasn’t ‘untold million’ on the table. He hoped the meeting would let the MPs provide and update on what they are doing as well as giving affected people a chance to answer the question “What could be done better?”
He said he thought that final decisions about the best way forward might take some time as they should properly wait until the Penrose Inquiry in Scotland had reported. However, generally speaking he felt that this Archer Inquiry and long running campaign meant that the issues were well know. Therefore, he wanted to work towards getting agreement from all the parties who might be represented in the next Government to agree a way forward before the General Election in 2015. The All Party Parliamentary Group will also shortly be starting an Inquiry into the fitness for purpose of the current Trust/Fund/Foundation support mechanisms.
Most of the MPs then spoke, giving their view of the campaign and often the views of their constituents. The meeting was then opened up to hear from those affected. It was recognised that not everyone has been able to attend meetings so YouGov have agreed to develop an online tool so that more people can be involved.
Issue raised included,
- The harm done by the treatments for the infections.
- Ill treatment from the various trusts, funds and foundations who currently provide support. Beneficiaries are not the enemy.
- Bereaved families not getting enough support.
- The need for the Department of Health to engage and answer outstanding questions.
- Destruction of documents and records.
- People’s desire for enough support that they were put back in the position they would have been in if the infections hadn’t happened. There should be consideration of the pain and suffering too.
- The need for closure to be able to move on.
- Inequality of treating widows differently depending on the different viruses.
- Having to plan for the future when you have spent most of your life not thinking you’d have one.
- The need for an apology.
- The desire not to be treated as a victim.
- Worries about vCJD.
- The impact of Hepatitis C treatment on the ability to work.
- Concern that any payments shouldn’t be taken into account when care needs are being means tested.
- Becoming to ill to work, both now and in the future.
- The desire to provide for partners and children after death.
- That those affected shouldn’t have to go through the ATOS process.
During the discussions we were told that there was little or no political support for a Public Inquiry. It was suggested that there would be a need for a process to see if there were gaps that needed addressing following the Penrose Report. It was also pointed out that select committees can compel witnesses and evidence during their Inquiries.