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Victim of contaminated NHS blood takes legal challenge to the High Court

High Court grants permission to bring judicial review proceedings in relation to the government's discretionary payment scheme for victims of contaminated NHS blood

Posted on 15 February 2017

A man who was infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) from contaminated NHS blood has been granted permission by the High Court to bring judicial review proceedings in relation to the government’s discretionary payment scheme.
The High Court granted permission on Monday 30 January for the judicial review to be heard. A hearing is expected in the coming months.
Alex Smith, who is represented by law firm Leigh Day, believes that the discretionary payment scheme for victims of NHS contaminated blood is discriminatory as those infected with HCV are paid less that those who contracted HIV from the blood.
A letter before action was sent to the government in September 2016 to ask the Secretary of State to clarify the discretionary payment scheme, which was revised in July 2016, and to confirm that there will be no inequality between those living with HCV and HIV.
In response to the letter the government denied that there was any inequality in the scheme and stated that they would not be amending the scheme. That decision will now be the subject of the judicial review.
In the 1970s to early 1990s, many thousands of NHS patients were provided with contaminated blood by the NHS and, as a direct result, contracted one or both of the blood-borne viruses, HIV and HCV.
The existing discretionary scheme has long been criticised because those who contracted HCV, who make up the majority of victims of this scandal, have been paid less than those who contracted HIV despite the fact that the government’s own medical advice is that the medical consequences of contracting HCV were at least as serious as contracting HIV, if not more serious.
Prior to the 2015 election the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised a review of the discretionary schemes to tackle this obvious injustice.  However in July 2016, soon after Mr Cameron left office, the government published details of a new scheme which was unclear but appeared to continue to discriminate against those with HCV.
Mr Smith, 61, of Oldham, said: “I am grateful to Leigh Day for helping me progress my case this far.  Hopefully this will finally end the discrimination in support for those suffering from HCV, which has gone on for many years.  The difference in support may not make me a rich man, but would at least allow me to live what is left of my life with dignity and without having to rely on charity for help with basic needs.” 
Rosa Curling, human rights solicitor at law firm Leigh Day said: “The fact that the High Court has granted permission for a substantive judicial review hearing demonstrates that the points we have raised on behalf of our client are important and should be heard by the court.
“Alex is delighted that the substantive hearing has been granted in his case. Those people who contracted HCV as a result of the contaminated NHS blood need to be supported and deserve to be treated equally to those who contracted HIV.”