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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 15:55 GMT
Hep' C victims 'should get cash'
Hepatitis C campaign
Protesters have campaigned for compensation
People who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood products should receive compensation, an independent report says.

The interim findings of an expert group calls for financial and other practical support for victims who received contaminated blood, blood products or tissue from the NHS in Scotland.

The group recommended that the Scottish Executive set up a fund to make payments and look at ways of developing support services.

Health minister Malcolm Chisholm said the executive would look at setting up a scheme, but added there were complex medical, legal and financial considerations to take into account.

Hep C sign
The health minister is being asked to act

The executive formed the independent group in March 2002 to look at compensation and support for people harmed by NHS treatment, including cases were the NHS was not at fault.

It was chaired by the Rt Hon Lord Ross, former Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland, who said: "The group felt strongly that it was wrong that people who have contracted HCV (hepatitis C virus) through receiving blood, blood products or tissue from the NHS in Scotland should be treated less favourably than people who have contracted HIV under similar circumstances.

"The group therefore concluded that lump sum payments and additional financial support should be made to such HCV sufferers, and that, in assessing such payments, regard should be had for the loss suffered by the individual.

"It also concluded that support arrangements for such people should be improved."

Although the cost could be high, payments were "necessary to avoid injustice to patients", the group said.

Blood
Blood screening began in 1991

Lord Ross added: "The group's remaining preliminary recommendations are aimed at improving the provision of advice and assistance, and legal aid in clinical negligence cases generally."

Until now the executive has refused to provide financial assistance to more than 500 people who were infected by blood products or transfusions before 1988.

The executive has refused to pay out by arguing that an effective method of screening blood was not available before 1991.

Hepatitis C is a virus which attacks the liver and it is most common in Scotland amongst drug users who have shared needles.

However, it can also be sexually transmitted, or absorbed from water supplies in some foreign countries.

But more than 500 people were given the virus accidentally by the National Health Service in Scotland.

Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm said he would find a way to act

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm welcomed the report.

He said: "We do share the Group's concern for those who through no fault of their own are suffering serious long-term harm and who are experiencing hardship.

"We would very much like to find a way of doing something to help them."

"However there are complex medical, legal and financial considerations to take into account."

He added: "What we need to do now is think carefully about who needs help, what is the best way to design a scheme and structure payments so that the individuals involved benefit fully, while taking account of the costs of any payment scheme in the light of other health priorities."

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 ON THIS STORY
Eleanor Bradford reports
"A group of experts said these patients should be compensated"
See also:

04 Nov 02 | Health
11 Dec 01 | Scotland
29 Aug 01 | Scotland
23 May 01 | Scotland
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
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