A former health minister has admitted he did not “fully grasp” his department’s proposed changes to compensation for victims of the contaminated blood scandal when plans were announced earlier this year.
Tory MP Alistair Burt, who was minister for care when a new scheme was unveiled in January, said he was “mistaken” at the time in thinking it successfully addressed complaints around eligibility, access and support for families.
However, speaking in a backbench debate yesterday, he stressed he is determined to ensure that no claimants are left “worse off” by the changes.
He joined fellow MPs in calling for a further review of the scheme and for guarantees its delivery will not be outsourced to the private sector.
Thousands of NHS patients are believed to have become infected with blood-born viruses as a result of contaminated transfusions administered in the 70s and 80s.
The Government has since set up compensation schemes for victims, but these have faced heavy criticism for “inconsistencies” in the way they are allocated and delivered.
The Department of Health set out proposals for a for a revised scheme in January, before publishing its finalised recommendations in July.
But these have faced renewed opposition, with campaigners warning that some victims could see their payments cut.
Raising these concerns in the Commons, Hull North MP Diana Johnson called on ministers to ensure those affected have access to the help and support they need and deserve.
She said victims and their families need greater clarity over the future of discretionary payments, stating that it “remains unclear whether any of the current support will continue”.
She also urged the DoH not to outsource the scheme, arguing there is too much public distrust of service firms like Atos and Capita.
Her calls were echoed by Mr Burt, who argued there are some things that need to be “publicly owned and publicly run”.
Mr Burt went on to admit that he thought he had “make a mistake” when the proposals that the new scheme is based on came forward.
“I understood the general thrust but I hadn’t fully grasped the detail,” he said. “I made a mistake by thinking at that time that we had solved the problem.”
The former minister also backed calls for “some form of inquiry” into the scandal.