The Health and Sport Committee are due to take evidence on the Penrose Inquiry report on 9 February and I understand that the committee will take evidence from the Scottish Infected Blood Forum (SIBF) on the progress that has been made since the publication of the Inquiry report.
After publication the Scottish Government initiated a financial review of the existing UK-wide support arrangements for those affected by infected NHS blood and blood products. The Financial Review Group included members of the SIBF and was tasked with delivering recommendations to Scottish Ministers by the end of November 2015. The group met eight times and reported to me with final recommendations in December. I am sure many SIBF members are eager to hear the decision of Scottish Ministers with regard to the review.
Our final decision regarding the recommendations will require detailed discussions with the UK Government, the other devolved administrations and the UK-wide financial support schemes. This work is already underway and progressing well. A decision will be made by April 2016 – in real terms this will have to be announced by 23 March given the pre-election period. Our priority in considering these recommendations is getting additional support to those in need as quickly as possible.
I know that the Scottish Infected Blood Forum did submit a Note of Dissent and detailed commentary with regard to the final recommendations of the Group and I will consider that. I am sure Scottish Infected Blood Forum members will also have taken account of the proposals in the recent UK Government consultation with interest. This is a public consultation to which anyone with an interest can respond. However, the proposals for reform and the additional money committed by the Department of Health are for those infected in England only. The Department of Health’s consultation is separate from the Scottish Government’s process to review financial support arrangements in Scotland. It will be for the Scottish Government to decide on what support arrangements are most appropriate for Scotland.
The focus of the proposed additional funding in England would seem to be the Skipton Fund Stage 1 group, subject to medical assessment that confirms ongoing health impact. They are also proposing to fund early access to the new hepatitis C (HCV) treatments via the support schemes – this is not an issue in Scotland to our knowledge and we know that these treatments have not been as widely deployed in England. Access to treatments could conceivably cost a substantial proportion of their announced additional budget. If SIBF members are aware of anyone infected with HCV via NHS blood who has not been able to access the new treatments in Scotland, it would be useful if they could make us aware of this through the SIBF Convenor.
Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport