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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Payouts for Hepatitis sufferers
Blood bag
Hep C sufferers have campaigned for compensation
Five hundred haemophiliacs in Scotland who contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated NHS blood products are to receive compensation.

A long-running wrangle between the Scottish Executive and UK Government over payments to sufferers appears to have been resolved.

The executive promised months ago that sufferers would receive pay-outs of up to 45,000 but none have received cash yet.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said earlier this year that payments could not be made until uncertainties over the executive's constitutional powers were resolved.

The political disagreement centred on whether the money would be clawed back under benefit rules.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm
We can now get on with the detailed business of establishing the scheme
Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm
Now the two sides have agreed Scotland can set up a compensation scheme and a similar system will be introduced in England and Wales.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Chisholm said: "I am very pleased that the devolved issue has been clarified and we can now get on with the detailed business of establishing the scheme.

"I am now hopeful that the benefits issue with the Department of Work and Pensions will be resolved to a satisfactory conclusion and the people affected will be able to receive the financial assistance we have proposed in the near future."

He said he believed it was a fair and reasonable offer which took the demands on Scotland's health budget into consideration.

'Derisory' offer

The Scottish Haemophilia Forum (SHF) said it welcomed the development and wanted to meet the health minister to discuss when the payments will be made.

SHF chairman Philip Doran said: "I find it surprising that it's taken so long for the decision to be resolved at Westminster.

"I shall be writing to the minister today asking him for an early meeting so we can take the whole matter forward."

Mr Doran said he wanted the issue to be "speedily resolved".

Andrew Gunn, a haemophiliac who contracted Hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood, dismissed the payments as "too little, too late".

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney said compensation should also be awarded to the relatives of those who have already died.

Infected blood was used in transfusions

He said: "It's time to settle our debt to the Hepatitis C victims.

"There must be no more delays, no more obstruction and no dodging of our obligation to the victims' families."

The deal struck will not affect future civil claims against the companies which made the blood products, or the prospect of criminal action against negligent officials.

Hepatitis C is a virus which attacks the liver and it is most common in Scotland amongst drug users who have shared needles. It can also be sexually transmitted.

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

In February, The Scottish Haemophilia Groups Forum (SHGF) criticised the financial package proposed by the executive to compensate sufferers.

It described the 45,000 maximum pay-out proposal as "derisory".

David Henderson reports
"The struggle for compensation has borne fruit"

Philip Doran, Scottish Haemophilla Forum
"I find it surprising that it's taken so long"

Payouts for NHS blood blunders
29 Aug 03  |  Health
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
Blood pay-out call fails
19 Dec 02  |  Scotland

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