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Lord Archer's Report (Government Response)

Volume 492: debated on Wednesday 20 May 2009

I am today publishing the Government’s response to Lord Archer’s independent inquiry report on NHS supplied contaminated blood and blood products.

I thank Lord Archer for his very thorough report. The Government have the greatest sympathy for those who have been affected, and deeply regret that these events came about following NHS treatment.

I have carefully considered the recommendations of Lord Archer, particularly relating to payments for infected individuals and their families. My full response details the action we are taking, but I want to highlight the following points.

The Macfarlane Trust and Eileen Trust provide ex gratia lump sum and discretionary payments to, respectively, haemophiliacs and others, who contracted HIV from infected blood and blood products, and their dependents. Over £45million has been paid out to date and there are currently around 600 beneficiaries.

I recognise Lord Archer’s concern about financial relief. I therefore intend to increase the funding available to the Macfarlane and Eileen Trusts to allow them to move to a system of annual payments for infected individuals. The current average annual payment is around £6,400. I intend that in future payments of £12,800 per annum would be made to each infected individual, thus eliminating the need for them to make repeated detailed applications. I will also increase the funding available to the trusts so that the trustees can make higher payments to dependents. Payment to dependents will continue to be decided on a case-by-case basis—and left to the decision of the trustees.

The Skipton Fund provides lump sum payments to people infected with hepatitis C from infected blood and blood products. To date £97million has been paid out to over 4000 individuals.

The Skipton Fund will continue to make payments to people infected with hepatitis C and I commit to reviewing it in 2014 when the fund will have been in existence for ten years.

I understand Lord Archer’s desire to establish a committee by statute to advise Government on the management of haemophilia in the United Kingdom. My view is that it is better to build on existing arrangements and expertise, rather than risk disrupting or duplicating those arrangements via legislation.

I have therefore decided instead to invite the Haemophilia Alliance, which comprises patients, haemophilia doctors, and others involved in their care, to meet with Government twice yearly. The Department of Health will host these meetings and representatives from the Health Departments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will be invited to participate in this new formal arrangement.

I will also commit £100,000 per annum funding to the Haemophilia Society over the next five years.

Measures are already in place to help to prevent similar events from happening in the future. The Government receive expert advice on safety measures from the independent advisory committee on the safety of blood tissues and organs (SaBTO), and NHS Blood and Transplant is responsible for ensuring a safe and sufficient supply of blood to England and Wales. I will also ensure strong links are made between SaBTO and the Alliance.

The full response to Lord Archer’s report has been placed in the Library of the House and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.