Renewed calls for extra payments before Christmas
Health Secretary Shona Robison has written again to the UK Government asking for agreement to increase winter fuel payments for people affected by infected NHS blood products.
The Scottish Government believes that those affected should receive extra payments this year while financial support packages are reviewed following the Penrose Inquiry.
Currently, people who were infected with Hepatitis C as a result of receiving infected blood products during the 1970s and 80s get a winter fuel payment through a UK-wide scheme run by the Caxton Foundation.
The amount received varies from year to year, but is usually between £300 and £500. The Scottish Government wants this to be increased to around £1,000 this winter, to provide additional assistance. But the amount can only be increased if all four UK nations agree to do so. Each country pays into the scheme at a proportionate rate depending on their relative number of registrants.
Ms Robison has previously written to Jane Ellison, UK Government Public Health Minister, in September and October but has not yet received a reply.
Ms Robison said: "Having written to the UK Government in September it's extremely disappointing that this hasn't been resolved. We are now well and truly into the winter, and Christmas is fast approaching.
"The Scottish Government is willing to put in our contribution, but because the Caxton Foundation is a UK charity and holds confidential information on beneficiaries, we're not able to act alone. I would urge the UK Government to make a decision on this so we can get the extra payments to people before Christmas.
"In Scotland we are reviewing the support packages on offer to people affected by infected blood in order to address any unmet need. We established an independent financial review group to make recommendations on how the schemes could be improved, and these will be submitted to me very soon.
"While we wait for the reformed packages to be established, it seems fair that some extra transitional support is provided. The winter fuel payments are an ideal vehicle for this."
In 2008 the Scottish Government announced a statutory Scottish public inquiry into the issue of infected blood – the only one carried out in the UK. The inquiry was chaired by Lord Penrose and published its final report earlier this year. Following its publication, the Scottish Government announced a review of the financial support available in Scotland, with a commitment to announce a new scheme before World Haemophilia Day, April 17 2016.