Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Judicial review on tainted blood

Blood plasma
Since the mid-1980s plasma products have been heat-treated to kill viruses

A judicial review is to be heard by the High Court over calls for higher compensation to the victims of contaminated blood.

An independent inquiry last year called for an overhaul of pay-outs to those who contracted HIV and hepatitis in the 1970s and 1980s through transfusions.

But ministers refused, promising only those with HIV £12,800 per year. Those with Hepatitis C are paid separately.

Victims want payments mirroring larger sums the Irish Republic has seen.

The review is being brought by haemophiliac Andrew March, a composer who was infected with HIV at the age of nine through blood transfusions.

'Fairer settlement'

Lord Archer of Sandwell led the 2009 inquiry, which was privately funded as successive governments have ruled out public investigations.

He concluded that commercial interests appeared to have been given priority over patient safety when it came to buying blood for transfusion in that period, much of which is thought to have come from US prison inmates with a high risk of infections.

UK authorities had been slow to react, the report noted, but it also accepted it was hard to directly apportion blame. Nevertheless, the government was urged to renegotiate a fair, direct and more substantial compensation package with survivors and their families.

Nearly 5,000 people were exposed to hepatitis C before the heat treating of blood products began in the mid 1980s to kill viruses. They were mainly haemophiliacs, who were given a product to help their blood clot.

Of these, more than 1,200 were also infected with HIV.

Almost 2,000 of those people have since died as a result.

The government has argued that it was simply not possible to test for these viruses in the 1970s and 1980s.

Money for those who contracted hepatitis C, which works through a series of lump sum payments, is not due to be reviewed by the government until 2014.

Whatever the outcome of the judicial review it cannot directly result in compensation, the campaign group Tainted Blood concedes, but it hopes ministers might re-consider their decisions if a declaration favourable to the victims was made.

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