Health minister Ben Gummer says the UK Government is ‘moving with some speed’ to help victims of the NHS contaminated blood scandal.

To adapt Douglas Adams’s famous line, this must be some new definition of the word “speed” with which we were not previously acquainted.

After haemophiliac patients and others infected with Hepatitis C and HIV during the 1970s and 80s had waited years for anyone to admit they had been harmed by NHS treatments, they waited decades for resolution. After the Scottish Penrose inquiry reported in March, David Cameron acknowledged that patients had had inadequate compensation – some had not really had any , still less an apology - and pledged £25m to help change the system.

Now, Mr Gummer is on the defensive after the government quietly announced a delay in spending that fund, which could defer implementation of a replacement scheme for a year. This was announced in the House of Lords, while parliament was in recess, in a written statement.

It is quite right for Labour to call this development shabby. To pledge action in the run up to an election then appear to delay it immediately afterwards is the kind of behaviour which feeds into growing cynicism about politicians. It appears to confirm the fears of those who condemned the Penrose report as a whitewash and Mr Cameron’s subsequent announcement as gesture politics.

Many of those worst affected by the scandal may not have another year to wait. Lives have already been lost and others ruined. At least 500 Scottish families have lost someone to the disaster, while thousands across the UK have been infected with either HIV or Hepatitis C, both unpleasant and potentially fatal illnesses. Some need palliative care, other social care or home adaptations. Many need transplants, many need access to new medicines. They should not be expected to wait any longer.

Those infected by HIV or hepatitis C, in hospitals they thought were helping them, deserve compensation. We should remember that this was a global problem and similar mistakes have been addressed far more effectively and with more urgency in many other countries.

The government says it is not delaying, and that a consultation will take 8-12 weeks, with a report due back by the end of the year. A new compensation scheme could be in place before the end of 2015/16.

But when the Scottish government reacted immediately to the Penrose report by setting up a review of financial assistance schemes it is unclear why the UK Government is still only pledging its consultation will begin ‘within months’.

It is not clear why Conservative ministers can deliver an emergency budget, and rush forward proposals on English Votes for English Laws, but can’t deliver on the prime minister’s previous promise to address this pressing injustice within six months.

The £25m was never intended to compensate in itself, it was to support a shift to a better system. But those affected need support now, and many cannot wait for a leisurely consultation while a new system is devised.