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Jeremy Hunt ‘has not kept promise to victim’, inquiry told

Mike Dorricott and daughter Sarah Image copyright Sarah Dorricott
Image caption Mike Dorricott, pictured with his daughter Sarah, died in 2015

Conservative leadership contender Jeremy Hunt failed to keep his promise to a man with terminal cancer during his time as health secretary, an inquiry was told.

Mike Dorricott died in 2015 from liver cancer linked to the hepatitis C he contracted through infected blood.

His widow Ann told the inquiry into the scandal Mr Hunt had promised to “sort out” a settlement for victims.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said he had “pushed for this landmark inquiry”.

Mr Dorricott, who died aged 47, campaigned for fair compensation for those affected by contaminated blood products before his death and met Mr Hunt, his South West Surrey MP, on numerous occasions.

The inquiry is looking at why 4,800 people with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.

More than 2,000 are thought to have died.

Analysis

By Hugh Pym, BBC News health editor

It was the first strong criticism of a politician at the infected blood inquiry and it won’t be the last.

Ann Dorricott recalled a meeting with Jeremy Hunt and his officials in 2014 when he seemed to indicate support for the idea of a “fair and final settlement”. Campaigners have long called for full compensation for victims and their families covering loss of earnings and recompense for their mistreatment by the NHS.

Currently they get financial support intended to cover living costs. Compensation has not been delivered in the UK as it has in Ireland, hence Ann Dorricott’s view that a promise had been broken. A spokesperson for Mr Hunt said he had increased financial support since the meeting and pushed for the inquiry.

As the hearings continue this year and next, former health secretaries will be called to give evidence and the former Prime Minister Sir John Major. The inquiry will probe the Government’s handling of what’s been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

Mrs Dorricott told the inquiry, sitting in Leeds, that a meeting had been held shortly after her husband’s terminal diagnosis to discuss a “fair and final settlement” for the victims.

“When Mike told the room that it was terminal, Mike got very upset, very emotional,” she said.

“Towards the end of the meeting, Jeremy Hunt came to myself and Mike, shook our hands and said to us, ‘don’t worry about this, we’ll sort it’.

“Those were his words.”

Image copyright Sarah Dorricott
Image caption This sign was placed outside Jeremy Hunt’s constituency office in Surrey after Mr Dorricott’s death

Counsel to the inquiry, Jenni Richards, asked Mrs Dorricott about her witness statement.

“You say in your statement this ‘since that meeting he has not fulfilled his promise’. That is your view and that was Mike’s view?”

Mrs Dorricott replied: “Yes.”

A spokesman for Mr Hunt, currently foreign secretary, said: “The Dorricott family are among thousands who have faced tragedy as a result of this appalling injustice.

“As well as increasing the financial support for victims, Jeremy pushed for this landmark inquiry because those affected have a right to know what went wrong and why.”

The family said Mr Dorricott, who had mild haemophilia, had been given a contaminated blood product in 1982 during routine dental surgery in Huddersfield near his home in West Yorkshire.

He would only discover he had hepatitis C almost 25 years later, and numerous treatments and two liver transplants followed before he was told his condition was terminal in 2014.

“We tried to lead a normal life for the girls, but it was just out of our control,” Mrs Dorricott told the inquiry.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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