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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January 2004, 12:50 GMT
Hep C compensation plan 'derisory'
Blood bag
Proper screening was introduced in 1991
The latest payment offer to Scottish Hepatitis C sufferers infected by NHS blood products has been dismissed as "derisory" by the Haemophilia Society.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said that no-fault payments will be made on a UK-wide basis without affecting existing benefits.

A new body called the Skipton Fund is being set up to run the scheme.

But campaigners said the payments of up to 45,000 compared badly with the average payout in Ireland of 300,000.

Hundreds of patients were infected with the potentially-fatal disease from contaminated blood products in the 1980s before proper screening measures were introduced in 1991.

Benefits system

Mr Chisholm accepted that ex-gratia payments should be made, following an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee.

UK Health Secretary John Reid has since come to the same conclusion and a UK-wide payment scheme is being set up.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm said Hep C sufferers will not miss out

It means payments will not be taken by the benefits system and it will widen the eligibility for payments to include those who have recovered and those whose medical files have been lost.

Under the terms of the scheme, those suffering the effects of the virus are entitled to 20,000, with a further 25,000 for those who have gone on to develop chronic conditions such as liver cancer.

The relatives of those who die from this point onwards are also entitled to payments.

The Scottish Haemophilia Forum (SHF) has been pushing for a public inquiry into how the patients contracted Hepatitis C.

But the health minister has ruled out such a move.

The SHF's lawyer, Frank Maguire, said the payout smacked of "tokenism" and left questions unanswered.

"Mr Chisholm is still failing to address one of the main concerns of at least 560 people (in Scotland) whose lives have been devastated by hepatitis C.

"Why was it that when they received treatment from the NHS they were given the virus? They deserve an answer."

Why was it that when they received treatment from the NHS they were given the virus? They deserve an answer
Frank Maguire
Scottish Haemophilia Forum lawyer
Similar criticism came from the Scottish National Party's health spokeswoman Shona Robison.

"I am pleased that finally the people who were infected with hepatitis C after being given infected blood products will receive some justice," she said.

But she added: "The level of financial assistance awarded today falls short of the recommendations of the expert group chaired by Lord Ross."

No payments will be made to patients who died before 29 August, 2003, the date when Dr Reid confirmed the executive had the powers to operate the scheme.

In the case of eligible patients who died between 29 August and the date when payments become available, the money will be paid to their dependants.

The Department of Health said the scheme would start operating from April, with payments following soon afterwards.

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