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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 11:59 GMT
Experts step up compensation calls
Blood bag
The blood products were used in the 1970s and 1980s
Scotland's health minister has been urged to think again over compensation for people who contracted hepatitis C through contaminated NHS blood products.

The call has come from a group of independent experts who were asked to examine compensation and support for people harmed by NHS treatment.

The group released its preliminary report in November, when it called on Malcolm Chisholm to provide compensation for those infected with hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s.

Unveiling the group's final report on Monday, chairman Lord Ross welcomed proposals to make payments to some of those affected.

Full implementation

But he said: "It (the group) is concerned that not all such people and their dependants are to receive payments.

"It urges the minister to reconsider the matter, and to undertake full implementation of the group's recommendations regarding such hepatitis C cases."

Lord Ross said the group's final report repeated its view that there was a "moral obligation" to provide compensation for people who have contracted hepatitis C through NHS blood products in Scotland.

I am sure the work done by the group will be very useful in establishing the detail of how any eventual payment scheme will operate
Malcolm Chisholm
Health Minister
"It is wrong that such people should be treated less favourably than people who have contracted HIV under similar circumstances," he said.

About 500 haemophiliacs in Scotland have contracted hepatitis C through contaminated blood products.

Mr Chisholm announced proposals for ex-gratia payments in January, but warned that no-one would get any cash until the Scottish Executive resolved an ongoing argument with Westminster.

The Scottish Haemophilia Groups Forum (SHGF) described the maximum 45,000 pay-out for those suffering cirrhosis, liver cancer or other serious illness as "derisory".

On Monday, Mr Chisholm said discussions were continuing with the UK Government on the issue.

The group is convinced that much could be done to make it easier for claimants
Lord Ross
"I hope we shall be successful. I am sure the work done by the group will be very useful in establishing the detail of how any eventual payment scheme will operate," he said.

The expert group's report also made a number of recommendations aimed at making it easier for people to pursue claims for clinical negligence.

Lord Ross said: "These recommendations relate to legal aid and the level of fees to solicitors in civil business, the NHS complaints procedure, research into mediation as a means of resolving such claims, the establishment of a Scottish branch of Action for Victims of Medical Accidents, court procedure and structured settlements.

"The group is convinced that much could be done to make it easier for claimants, and that implementation of its recommendations would be beneficial not only to claimants but also to the NHS in Scotland."

Mr Chisholm said he was confident that the executive would be able to respond positively in most of the areas identified for improvement.


SEE ALSO:
Hepatitis sufferer's inquiry call
18 Mar 03 |  Scotland
Blood compensation 'derisory'
25 Feb 03 |  Scotland
The fight for Hep C compensation
17 Jan 03 |  Scotland
Minister intervenes in Hep C row
17 Jan 03 |  Scotland
Hep' C victims 'should get cash'
06 Nov 02 |  Scotland


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