Contaminated blood: Minister urged to address payment disparity

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Stormont's health minister has been urged to address a disparity that sees victims of the contaminated blood scandal paid less than in other parts of the UK.

Victims in Northern Ireland receive an annual payment that is less than those in England, Scotland and Wales.

The difference can be as much as £14,000 a year.

Simon Hamilton of Haemophilia NI said people affected by the scandal in Northern Ireland cannot be forgotten.

He said he is urgently seeking a meeting with the assembly's new health minster, Robin Swann.

"All haemophiliacs and other folks who were seriously infected were all infected prior to devolution and the decisions made were made prior to devolution in terms of the purchase of unclean products," he said.

image captionMr Hamilton is seeking an urgent meeting with Stormont's health minster Robin Swann

Mr Hamilton said the disparity needs to be addressed and must not be "bottom of the priority list" of financial commitments set out in the New Decade, New Approach deal.

"It's a question of commitment, I have had many verbal commitments yet I have seen no action," he told BBC Radio Foyle.

Speaking on Wednesday after meeting Stormont's finance minster Conor Murphy, Mr Swann said there was now an onus on government to "live up to the commitments it made in the New Decade, New Approach document."

"As I said in the assembly yesterday, if devolution is to deliver, it has to deliver for our health service."

He added:" "We have a massive task in front of us. There are competing demands for additional spending across many key areas."

Mr Murphy said the restored executive is "united in its determination to rebuild our health service."

"The New Decade, New Approach document detailed a new action plan on waiting times, reforms in health and social care and better support for victims of contaminated blood," he said.

Mr Murphy added: "We need to start repairing the damage to all public services caused by a decade of austerity."

An estimated 5,000 people across the UK were infected in what has been called the "worst scandal in the history of the NHS".

The scandal resulted in people who had haemophilia being treated with blood infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.

A public inquiry into the infected blood scandal began last year.

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