Widow of Hartlepool blood scandal victim welcomes 'significant step' in increased payments
A campaigning widow whose husband died in a contaminated blood scandal has given a cautious welcome to news that payments for some of those affected will be increased.
Carol Grayson, who is originally from Hartlepool, has campaigned for families for years after her haemophiliac husband Peter Longstaff died aged 47 in 2005 after contracting hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood.
The scandal has been labelled the worst treatment disaster in the NHS’s history, leaving thousands of patients infected with hepatitis and HIV, and causing many early deaths.
Most of those involved had the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia and relied on regular injections of the blood product Factor VIII to survive which they did not know was contaminated.
Now the Government has announced it will resolve UK disparities in financial support given to HIV and hepatitis C victims and bereaved partners worth up to thousands of pounds a year.
It will result in a financial uplift for many people affected in England, including Carol, who gave up her career to care for Peter.
The Government has also committed to look at a compensation framework.
Carol, 61, who is part of Haemophilia Action UK, said: “We’re delighted that the Government has now made a significant step forward finally because we have been waiting for a long time.
"Some of the widows are in poor health because we’ve been fighting that long. We care for our husbands for years and years.
"We have never been allowed to grieve properly because we’ve had to continue campaigning.”
Peter, who was also born and grew up in Hartlepool, was one of at least 2,400 people who lost their lives after being given infected blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.
Carol added: “It will mean quite a significant uplift in monthly payments through the England Infected Blood Support Scheme.
"It will move me from literally living on the poverty line to hopefully being able to have a reasonable income.
“We’re obviously very pleased, but at the same time we are looking at it with caution.”
Carol said there are still things campaigners want to clarify including making sure the monthly payments continue for life and won’t be affected by changes of governments.
Meanwhile, a major independent inquiry into the scandal led by Sir Brian Langstaff is continuing and is due to make recommendations to the Government to prevent such a scandal happening again.
Carol, who now lives in Newcastle, added: "I think the inquiry is hugely important. We have gone from nearly four decades of this being brushed under the carpet and seeing other groups getting inquiries to going to the biggest inquiry in the country, so that’s quite significant.
"The death figures involved are bigger than any other inquiry put together, over 3,000 haemophiliacs.
"It has been called the Haemophiliac’s Holocaust. It’s been totally devastating. Every aspect of our lives has been affected.
"This inquiry has got legal clout so the recommendations will have to be taken seriously.”
The Government has also announced enhancements to the psychological support for victims.
Beneficiaries are now able to receive funding for counselling directly from the scheme without GP approval or the need to access waiting lists.