In 2016 the Government decided to improve the way we support people who have suffered as a result of the infected blood tragedy of the 1970s and 1980s. At this time the Government committed an additional £125 million of support to those affected, more than doubling the Department of Health’s annual spending on the scheme over the spending review period to April 2021.
Following the 2016 consultation we announced new annual payments for people with chronic hepatitis C (stage 1 infection) and a new one-off payment for bereaved partners and spouses; a new process for those with stage 1 infection to apply for the higher payment amount; and increased annual payments from 2018-19.
In March 2017 we launched a second consultation, looking at the new voluntary process by which those infected by stage 1 Hepatitis C can apply for higher annual payments (the Special Category Mechanism). The Special Category Mechanism aims to benefit beneficiaries with hepatitis C stage 1 who consider their infection, or its treatment, to have a substantial and long-term impact on their ability to carry out routine daily activities.
The consultation was open to all beneficiaries and other interested parties across the UK to comment on our proposals. The consultation closed on 17 April 2017.
The Government have listened carefully to the consultation responses, analysed pre and post-consultation evidence from other sources, and reviewed consultation proposals in line with respondents’ views and evidence. Following this, the consultation response sets out the Government’s plans for reform, which are summarised below:
Introduction of planned uplifts in annual payments from 2018-19. All beneficiaries will receive an increase in annual payments from 2018-19.
A new Special Category Mechanism (SCM) for those with hepatitis C infection at stage 1 in November 2017.
The introduction of a single programme of discretionary support for all—infected and bereaved.
An increase in the overall level of funding for discretionary support from 2018-19.
All annual payments will include the winter fuel payment.
Addition of type 2 or 3 cryoglobulinemia accompanied by membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, MPGN), to the current hepatitis C stage 2 conditions.
A letter will be sent to the beneficiaries of the English scheme to make them aware of these changes, and advise them on how to access the consultation response, a link to which is also provided as part of this statement. When the SCM process opens beneficiaries with hepatitis C at stage 1 will receive a letter telling them how to apply.
For the first time, all beneficiaries of any of the current five schemes will be receiving support from a single scheme. As previously announced the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) will become the new single scheme administrator in England, with effect from 1 November 2017. While this transition takes place, annual and discretionary payments and services will continue to be made by the current schemes to ensure a smooth transition to the new scheme with minimum impact on the beneficiaries.
The Government strongly believe that all those who are affected by this tragedy should be supported by a fair and transparent scheme that focuses on their welfare and long-term independence. With this additional funding and scheme reform, the support provided to those affected by the infected blood tragedy will be greater and fairer than ever before.
A copy of the full consultation and the related equality analysis can be found on gov.uk using the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ infected-blood-support-special-category-mechanism.