Cromer Thalidomide victim reacts to new government fund

A new multi-million pound government fund designed to support thalidomide victims has been welcomed by a Cromer man afflicted by the drug, although he has said it may not be enough in the long term.

But the Department of Health announcement is only one step on the way to justice, said Peter Longstaff, who was one of thousands of babies born with deformities in the late 1950s and early 60s when their pregnant mothers were given the drug thalidomide to help with their morning sickness.

Now aged 51, Mr Longstaff is one of England's 325 surviving 'thalidomiders', many of whom are limited in their ability to work and require adapted homes and cars. Mr Longstaff was born without arms.

The Department of Health has said it will pay around �80m over 10 years to the Thalidomide Trust, which dispenses help and support to people disabled by the drug.

Mr Longstaff said as he aged he was suffering from arthritis in his legs and he might be faced with the need for new hip and knee joints.

'The news about the new fund is good and we are very pleased, but in the longer term it may well not be adequate because it's very hard to predict what people will need as the years pass.

'The next step is to hold meetings and discuss the situation in terms of the pharmaceutical company behind thalidomide, Grunenthal. That will start to happen later this year and I will be involved alongside several other people.'

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Care and support minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the grant recognised the increasing health needs of thalidomide survivors as they approached older age and that more investment was needed to help meet the complex health needs that could arise.

The grant, piloted for the last three years, has previously been used to help thalidomiders alter their houses or other areas of life to improve health and living standards.

Mr Lamb said: 'We wish to express our deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those affected by the drug thalidomide.

'This deal represents our clear acknowledgment that thalidomiders should be supported and helped to live as independent lives as possible, and we hope that this funding will aid that cause and provide an element of long term financial security.'

The funding affects Thalidomide survivors living in England only. The devolved administrations have made separate announcements.

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