Infected Blood Inquiry: Portchester mum berates government behaviour as evidence hearings begin
A MOTHER who contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion has slammed the government for its behaviour during the contaminated blood scandal.
Jackie Britton from Portchester had the transfusion 32 years ago, during childbirth, and was diagnosed in 2011 with the infectious liver disease due to the blood given to her.
She is one of thousands of people who were infected with HIV or hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s after contaminated blood from the USA was used by the NHS for patients with haemophilia or those who needed a blood transfusion.
Victims and their families received some financial support but campaigners argued about the differing amounts given and how easy it was to get the financial help. A meeting earlier this year sought to resolve problems.
Jackie said: ‘We met with officials in January to talk about an increase in annual payments and we asked them to speak to us first about their decision and we gave them a deadline of today when the hearings start.
‘People lost a lot and were living on the breadline and losing their homes over mortgage payments. I said at the meeting we were dead men walking and we needed help.’
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said today regular annual payments for some of those infected would now ‘substantially increase’, from a total pot of £46m to £75m.
The 57-year-old said: ‘We wrote a letter to them the day before the hearings were due to start but heard nothing back. Instead they announced it in the media first. We were treated appallingly and they continue to treat us the same.’
The Infected Blood Inquiry will hear from victims at the hearing in Fleetbank House, central London, before similar testimonies take place over the coming months in Belfast, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The inquiry is being chaired by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff.
Des Collins, senior partner of Collins Solicitors, which represents more than 1,000 victims and their families, said: ‘For many, many years it didn't look as if this moment would ever come: the public hearings at the public inquiry offer a chance for many people to stand up, to tell their story and be heard.
‘We acknowledge that the Government has finally proposed increases to the long-running issue of support payments to some of the victims and their families affected - in England - by contaminated blood products.
‘However, the increase in the payments heralded today by the government is minuscule in real terms for those whose health has suffered so significantly, for so long.
‘These payments provide a minimal level of support and I fear that the increase announced today will do little to help offset the challenges that many people are facing.’
Jackie is due to give evidence to the inquiry on Friday.
She added: ‘These hearings have been a long time coming and for me it will be a very emotional day.
‘For me the best outcome from all of this is everyone who had a blood transfusion in those times is tested because then they can get help. I think also people forget it can also affect other family members as my second daughter had to be tested but fortunately she was fine.
‘This has ruined a lot of people’s lives.’