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Aid for infected blood patients will address hurt over funding imbalance – Swann

An uplift offered to patients elsewhere in the UK last year was not implemented in Northern Ireland due to the collapse of powersharing.

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Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann (PA)

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann (PA)

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann (PA)

The Health Minister has expressed hope a £1 million boost for infected blood patients will help alleviate the hurt caused by a funding disparity with England.

The money allocated by the Executive as part of the in-year budgetary monitoring process will address an imbalance in support offered in other UK regions.

Thousands of patients across the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. Around 2,400 people died.

In April last year, at the outset of a state inquiry into the scandal, the Government announced an uplift in the level of financial support offered to those impacted during the time-frame of the inquiry.

However, that move only affected victims in England, with the devolved regions handed responsibility for making their own decisions on support. In Northern Ireland, the issue was one of many put on the long finger as a result of the powersharing impasse.

A commitment to resolve the issue was made in the deal that restored powersharing earlier this month.

I am very conscious of the hurt this divergence with England has caused to victims of infected blood hereRobin Swann

The £1 million announced on Monday will fund interim payments for Northern Ireland beneficiaries of the Infected Blood Payment Scheme ranging between £4,000 and £8,000 per person, depending on individual circumstances.

With a wider review of support payments ongoing, further support may be forthcoming before the end of the financial year.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I very much welcome this allocation. It allows my department to now issue payments to help alleviate hardship – ahead of concluding the review of the overall package of support in Northern Ireland.

“The use of contaminated blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s was clearly the worst disaster in UK health care since the creation of the NHS. I am very aware of the terrible suffering and financial hardship that people have endured as a result of receiving a devastating diagnosis following receipt of NHS contaminated blood.”

Mr Swann acknowledged that the failure to increase funding in line with England last year had caused hurt.

“I am very conscious of the hurt this divergence with England has caused to victims of infected blood here,” he said.

“I hope the interim payments I have announced today will go some way toward addressing that hurt and alleviating financial hardship.

“I am also committed to a wider ongoing review of all the support provided to victims in Northern Ireland. I want to make sure all aspects of our support scheme best meet the needs of our people.”

He said the first phase of the review has already commenced and would inform the provision of further support before the end of this financial year.

The Infected Blood Inquiry, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff, is due to deliver its report in 2021.

PA