UK Government

Department of Health: Support for Thalidomide Survivors

Press Release   •   Dec 24, 2009 10:07 GMT

Details of a £20m three-year pilot scheme to explore a more personalised way of meeting the health needs of Thalidomide survivors have been announced today by Health Minister Mike O’Brien.

Under the scheme, the Department of Health will provide the Thalidomide Trust with grant funding which will be distributed amongst survivors to help meet their health needs and minimise any further deterioration of their condition.

Following meetings with the Thalidomide Trust, its National Advisory Council and Thalidomide survivors to discuss concerns about their health needs the Government has agreed a pilot approach working with the Trust to address the complex and highly specialised needs of its beneficiaries.

The Trust will use its extensive expertise and knowledge of the needs of its members to inform the three-year pilot that is likely to give thalidomiders more control over their long-term health needs.

The pilot proposal sets out clear principles for use of the money, and the scheme will be evaluated to explore how the health needs of thalidomiders can be best met in the longer term. The Department of Health will also look at how this approach – working through an expert national body – might be applied to other small groups of patients who have specialised needs but are geographically dispersed.

Health Minister Mike O’Brien said:

“I am extremely pleased to announce the details of the three-year pilot scheme agreed with the Thalidomide Trust that will help Thalidomide survivors meet their changing and increasing health needs as they approach older age. I know that this will be a much-anticipated early Christmas present for all those involved.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the work of the Thalidomide Trust and its officers, and members of the National Advisory Council who have worked tirelessly to champion the cause of Thalidomide survivors, and whose contribution in supporting them and their families cannot be overstated.”

Guy Tweedy, a campaigner for Thalidomide victims said:

"We are delighted by the announcement of this pilot scheme which should bring real benefits to Thalidomide victims."

Nick Dobrik, leader of the Thalidomide campaign said:

"We would like to thank our lawyer Jacqueline Perry for her continued help over the last 16 years. Without her kind advice we would not be where we are today.

“Additionally we would like to thank Mike O'Brien for treating us with so much respect and understanding in recent months. Lastly I would like to thank thalidomiders themselves and MPs from all parties for listening to our concerns and for their support during this process."

A full statement of regret will be made in Parliament in the New Year.

Notes to editors

  • The pilot scheme will run for three years from April 2010. Funding for the grant has been found from existing health budgets.
  • The Thalidomide Trust’s aim is to provide relief and assistance for those people born in the United Kingdom, damaged as a result of their mothers having taken the drug Thalidomide (as manufactured by Distillers Biochemicals Limited) during their pregnancy. They are currently supporting 466 individuals. For more information please see:

  • Those affected by Thalidomide continue to get compensation through a private settlement with Diageo PLC (the successor to the company that originally marketed Thalidomide in the UK) which is administered by the Thalidomide Trust. Diageo continues to make annual payments to the Trust.
  • For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
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