Contaminated blood victims to get more financial support as public inquiry begins
Thousands of haemophiliacs and other hospital patients in the 1970s and 1980s were given blood products infected with hepatitis C and HIV, with around 2,400 people left dead.
North East victims include Sheila Thubron, 65, from Sunderland, was contracted hepatitis C when she was given a transfusion; Peter Longstaff who died at the age of 47 in 2005 after contracting hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood; and Jeffrey Frane from South Shields, who died in 1991 at the age of just 39 after developing HIV and hepatitis B.
As hearings begin in central London on Tuesday, the Government announced extra money would go to thousands of people affected by the medical catastrophe in England.
"This will see regular annual payments for some of those infected substantially increase, from a total of £46 million to £75 million," said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
More bereaved partners of victims will also be eligible for support.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The contaminated blood scandal was a tragedy that should never have happened and has caused unimaginable pain and hurt for victims and their families for decades.
"I know this will be a difficult time for victims and their families - but today will begin a journey which will be dedicated to getting to the truth of what happened and in delivering justice to everyone involved."
Infected blood support schemes were set up in 2017 - with country-specific programmes in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.
The funding increase "follows extensive consultation with those affected and a recognition of the disparities that have existed across the schemes", the DHSC added.
The Infected Blood Inquiry will hear from victims at the hearing in Fleetbank House, central London, before similar testimonies take place over the coming months in Belfast, Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The inquiry is chaired by former High Court judge Sir Brian Langstaff.
Sir Brian said: "As I promised at the outset, people and their experiences are at the heart of this inquiry, and that the inquiry is honouring its undertaking to hear directly in major centres around the whole of the UK from those infected by blood or bloodproducts, and those who have been affected by this.
"I have little doubt that their testimony will not only be poignant but also a powerful tool in helping to get to the truth of what happened."