A law firm representing 800 victims and families of those affected by a huge NHS scandal says it has not received a penny of funding, despite claiming thousands of pounds for its work.
Collins Solicitors is representing victims and families of those who were given NHS blood products that were contaminated with HIV and hepatitis in the 1970s and 1980s.
Cabinet Office ministers promised earlier this year that victims would receive legal funding for the inquiry, which opened today at Church House in Westminster.
Des Collins (pictured), founder and Senior Partner of Collins Solicitors, told the Daily Telegraph that the firm first claimed in April for funding after it spent more than a thousand hours working on the terms of reference, which set out the scope of the inquiry, but has not yet received any money.
He said the firm has also been told it will be paid for 16 per cent of the hours of work it applied for.
Discussing the effect that the lack of funding has had on the firm, Mr Collins said:
“It puts us under a phenomenal amount of financial pressure and if you were going to be cynical about it, you would say that’s a deliberate ploy.
“It’s well known that if you’re litigating against someone and they have deep pockets, they can just throw money at it until you give up.”
The senior partner admitted that he fears the firm will not be able to effectively serve the victims, saying: “At some point we’re going to have to say ‘we can’t continue doing this at this level which you deserve.'”
Almost 5,000 people in the UK contracted HIV or hepatitis C after being given a contaminated treatment for haemophilia, and others also became infected after receiving transfusions because of giving birth or undergoing surgery.
More than 2,800 people are known to have died in what has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.