UK fast-tracks payments for blood scandal victims before full compensation

London: Britain said on Tuesday some victims of a contaminated blood scandal would receive interim payments of 210,000 pounds ($267,000) each before a scheme to pay “comprehensive compensation” is up and running, ideally by the end of the year.

More than 30,000 people contracted hepatitis and HIV from infected blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s from Britain’s state-funded National Health Service, many derived from donations by higher risk groups such as prisoners which were pooled together.

“The government will be making further interim payments ahead of the establishment of the full scheme,” minister John Glen told parliament, a day after a damning report blamed the state and doctors for failures that killed over 3,000 people.

“Our expectation is that final payments will start before the end of the year,” he said.

After fighting for decades for justice and recompense, the victims and their families were vindicated on Monday by the report from Brian Langstaff, chair of a public inquiry into the scandal, which has shaken Britons’ faith in some institutions.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a “wholehearted unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice” on Monday, adding that those affected would receive “comprehensive compensation”, with no limit to the total cost.

The compensation payments will not be taxable.

Glen said a new arm’s length body would administer the compensation under interim chair Robert Francis, a senior lawyer.

Francis in 2022 recommended that victims be compensated regardless of the findings of the inquiry, resulting in some 4,000 victims receiving payments of 100,0000 pounds each from the state so far.

Glen said anyone who had been affected by blood, blood products or tissue contaminated with HIV or hepatitis C, or had developed a chronic infection from blood contaminated with hepatitis B, would be eligible to claim.

Where victims had died, compensation would be paid to their estates, he said.

People who cared for victims, such as partners and parents, could apply for compensation in their own right, he said.

The government did not set out a budget. However, press reports have put the total cost at more than 10 billion pounds ($12.7 billion).