Three former health secretaries have written to Boris Johnson, urging him to authorise immediate interim payments to the victims of the infected blood scandal.
Thousands of NHS patients were infected with HIV or hepatitis C by contaminated blood products imported from the US in the 1970s and 1980s.
And almost 3,000 people died in what was described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the health service.
The chair of an inquiry into what happened, Sir Brian Langstaff, said last week that the surviving victims – more than 4,000 people – should receive no less than £100,000 “without delay” in light of the “profound physical and mental suffering” caused by the scandal.
Now Labour’s former health secretary Andy Burnham and two of his Tory successors, Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock, have called on the prime minister to sign off the payments straight away.
In their letter, the ex-ministers warned against any delay from Mr Johnson, “for instance by arguing that we need to wait for the inquiry to finish, for a new prime minister or for parliament to return”, saying 400 people had already died since the inquiry started and a hold up would “sadly almost certainly see more of the victims die before they see justice”.
They wrote: “As health secretaries with a combined period in office of 10 years, we passionately believe that this is the vital next step towards justice for those who have suffered dreadfully over the decades as a result of this scandal.
“You have the opportunity to leave a lasting and positive legacy, and start to put right a terrible injustice that others before you have failed to do.
“We urge you to grasp that opportunity before it is too late for yet more victims and their families.”
After Sir Brian made his recommendation, the government said it would consider the report with “the utmost urgency” and “respond as soon as possible”.
A spokesperson added: “The government is grateful to Sir Brian Langstaff for his interim report regarding interim compensation for victims of infected blood.
“We recognise how important this will be for people infected and affected across the UK.”
Sky News has contacted Number 10 for a response to the new letter.