A man who was infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) from contaminated NHS blood has begun a new legal claim against the Government to challenge the lawfulness of a revised discretionary payment scheme.
In the 1970s to early 1990s, many thousands of NHS patients were provided with contaminated blood by the NHS and, as a direct result, contracted one or both of the blood-borne viruses, HIV and HCV.
The existing discretionary scheme has long been criticised because HCV sufferers, who make up the majority of victims of this scandal, have been paid less than those who contracted HIV despite the fact that the government’s own medical advice is that the medical consequences of contracting HCV were at least as serious as contracting HIV, if not more serious.
Prior to the 2015 election the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised a review of the discretionary schemes to tackle this obvious injustice. However in July 2016, soon after Mr Cameron left office, the government published details of a new scheme which is unclear but appears to continue to discriminate against HCV sufferers.
One of the victims, Alex Smith, has now instructed lawyers to challenge the legality of this continuing discrimination.
A letter before action has been sent to the Government this week which again asks the Secretary of State to take urgent action to clarify the July decision and to confirm that there will be no inequality between disabled HCV victims and those who contracted HIV. Mr Smith has asked the Secretary of State to immediately correct the anomalies. If no response is received within 14 days Mr Smith has told the government that he will commence legal proceedings in the High Court if proper assurances are not provided.
Mr Smith, 61, of Oldham, said: “The problems with the scheme have gone on for far too long. We must be treated fairly and comparably with those suffering from HIV as a result of the contaminated blood.”
Rosa Curling, human rights solicitor at law firm Leigh Day said: “It has been over 18 months since we first wrote to the Department of Health raising our clients’ concerns about the discrimination faced by HCV sufferers as a result of this scheme. Despite the Government’s decision to reform the payment scheme, the discrimination we highlighted remains in place and we believe the proposals for the scheme are unlawful as a result.”
“Not only do the HCV victims have to deal with the symptoms of the disease, they are receiving a far lower amount of compensation from the Government, despite the Government’s recognition that the impact on the lives of those infected with HCV is ‘at least as great as that of living with HIV’.”