HC Deb 28 July 1998 vol 317 cc179-80W
Mr. Coaker

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will respond to representations made on behalf of people infected with hepatitis C by blood products. [53098]

Mr. Dobson

I have today written to the Haemophilia Society explaining that, after lengthy and very careful consideration, we have concluded that haemophiliacs who have been infected with hepatitis C through National Health Service treatment should not receive special payments.

Government policy is that compensation or other financial help to particular patients or groups of patients is paid out only where the NHS or individuals working in it have been at fault. The needs of people whose condition results from inadvertent harm is met from benefits available to the population in general. On that basis, we have decided not to make an exception to the general rule in the case of haemophiliacs infected with hepatitis C.

Whilst the Society makes a special case for haemophiliacs because the infection comes on top of a pre-existing serious long term medical condition, the same considerations apply to other individual patients and groups of patients, whether inadvertently infected with another illness or harmed as a result of another medical or surgical procedure who can obtain compensation only if there has been negligence. The Society also argued that, as Government provides financial help to haemophiliacs infected with HIV, this scheme should be extended to cover people with hepatitis C. However, our view is the circumstances were different: the stigma around HIV at the time the original decision was taken, the fact that it was generally considered a sexually transmitted disease and that haemophiliacs could inadvertently infect their partners were all important considerations which do not apply to hepatitis C.

The Society was particularly concerned that young people were fearful of the possibility of passing on hepatitis C. That is a concern we share. The Department is therefore working with the Society to develop a project aimed at helping young people with haemophilia and related disorders who are infected with hepatitis C to understand their condition and so improve their future health, education and employment prospects. We will help with funding for this project.

In an earlier decision, we have already agreed that recombinant Factor VIII is made available to children under 16 and to new patients.

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