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Compensation scheme for victims of contaminated blood to be cut back over costs

Ministers have announced plans to scale back a new compensation scheme for victims of contaminated blood after it emerged it could run £123 million over budget.

The Government is now consulting on a range of measures that would cut predicted costs paid out to those infected with hepatitis C following treatment with NHS-supplied blood or blood products.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said it is expected there would be no reduction in current spend as a result of the changes, and that no-one currently in receipt of an annual payment would be worse off.

In July the Government unveiled plans to add £125 million of funding to its compensation scheme, more than doubling the Department of Health's annual spend on the scheme to 2021.

This included the new special appeals mechanism for those with chronic hepatitis C infection.

Ms Blackwood has now outlined plans to limit the highest level of financial support under the new scheme to those infected with hepatitis C who have developed advanced liver disease.

A Department of Health (DoH) impact assessment shows more people with pre-cirrhotic hepatitis C would benefit from the higher payouts than previously forecast.

"Under new assumptions, the reforms would lead to an estimated overspend of between £76 million and £123 million over the remainder of the Spending Review period," the impact assessment says.

The DoH is now consulting on three changes to cut costs.

A £50,000 lump sum would no longer be offered to those with less advanced infections.

Other changes include dropping plans to have a fixed increase in annual payments, as well as reducing the budget available for discretionary payments.

In a written ministerial statement, Ms Blackwood said: "The Government does not anticipate that there will be any reduction in current spending as a result of the consultation proposals.

"No-one who currently receives an annual payment will be worse off than they are now as a result of the proposed changes to the annual payments."

The six-week consultation runs until April 17.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "David Cameron said in his last announcement as Prime Minister that he was proud to give those who were infected the help they deserved.

"It seems that Theresa May has no such conscience.

"It would be very troubling if the Government scales back on its compensation scheme.

"People have been contaminated by bad blood through no fault of their own and have had to wait a long time for justice. Mrs May should not be allowed to snatch that justice away."

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