Senior Tory MP Jeremy Hunt has urged the government to pay interim compensation to all infected blood victims and bereaved partners “right away” before more people die.
The former health secretary’s remarks come after Sir Brian Langstaff, the chairman of the inquiry into the scandal, said a compensation payment of no less than £100,000 should be paid to all victims, “without delay”.
The Infected Blood Inquiry started taking evidence in 2018 and was established to examine how patients were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
There are believed to be more than 4,000 surviving victims from what has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS, during which about 2,400 people died.
After the chairman of the inquiry’s comments on Friday, a government spokesperson said it would consider the former High Court judge’s report with the “utmost urgency” and “respond as soon as possible”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Hunt said: “I think that this will happen now.
“I just would urge ministers to recognise that time is of the essence and just waiting, you know, a couple of months until, for example, the leadership campaign is resolved and the new prime minister has made the decision will mean that a few more people are likely to have died.
He insisted: “We should do it right away. We’ve waited far too long. Successive governments, which I was part of one, didn’t act as quickly as they should have and we need to recognise this is as a terrible, terrible injustice”.
The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, who was health secretary in the last Labour government between 2009 and 2010, added there they “may be a case for corporate manslaughter” over the infected blood scandal.
He told BBC Breakfast: “The really appalling statistic is about every four days, somebody infected is dying, and that’s why Sir Robert Francis made this recommendation, and it’s why the chair of the inquiry has said the Government should now act with the utmost urgency.
“My message this morning is to the outgoing prime minister: Please, prime minister, do this today, say you’ll do it today, no one will disagree, every single member of parliament will support it, people have waited far, far too long.”
Matt Hancock, another former health secretary, also told the programme that the government has a “moral duty” to pay compensation to victims, but stressed he was “confident” it will.
“I heard what the Cabinet Office said having been a minister, having been a Cabinet Office minister, my reading between the lines of that is that they’re going to get on with this pretty quickly,” he said.
He urged whoever becomes the next prime minister on 5 September to pay the compensation, adding: “My view is that when a government sets up an inquiry like this, which we were right to do, it is then a moral duty on the state, on the government, to pay compensation.”
A spokesperson said: “The government is grateful to Sir Brian Langstaff for his interim report regarding interim compensation for victims of infected blood.
“We recognise how important this will be for people infected and affected across the UK, and can confirm that the government will consider Sir Brian’s report and the recommendations of Sir Robert Francis QC with the utmost urgency, and will respond as soon as possible. A copy of the report will be laid in the House once Parliament reconvenes.”