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CAA Press Release: New Asbestos Law will Recover Millions for the NHS in Scotland
On 21 February 2014
A new bill designed to reclaim the medical costs of treating people suffering from asbestos related disease is being launched today by Clydeside Action on Asbestos (CAA) and Scottish Nationalist MSP Stuart McMillan. The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill will allow the NHS to claw back the enormous costs associated with caring for people who contracted industrial diseases like Mesothelioma which is caused by exposure to asbestos.
Clydeside Action on Asbestos and Stuart McMillan estimate that over £20 million pounds a year is spent by NHS Scotland diagnosing and treating people suffering from the horrendous effects of asbestos exposure. The bill will enable the NHS to re-coup those costs from insurance companies who have already settled civil claims with victims. The costs of treatment will be calculated from a patient’s initial diagnosis.
There is currently provision in Scots law for the NHS to claim from insurers the costs of treating people involved in accidents but no recovery system exists for those who have contracted industrial diseases. The fact that a recovery system is already in place for accidents means the bill’s introduction should be achieved with little difficulty.
CAA and Mr McMillan anticipate the bill will meet with very strong resistance from the Association of British Insurers but firmly believe that those who cause industrial disease should compensate our National Health Service for the strain that asbestos has placed on its finite resources.
Phyllis Craig MBE, Chair of Clydeside Action on Asbestos said:
We are urging the Scottish Parliament to address this issue as a priority. It is widely accepted that the number of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma continues to increase, placing an ever greater burden on the NHS and palliative care services. The responsibility for meeting these costs rests with the employers who exposed their employees to asbestos, contributing to the development of their illness. It is only just that the employers have to meet the costs of care that result from their negligence.
That view was endorsed by Stuart McMillan, MSP, who has given his longstanding support to people with asbestos related disease:
We cannot underestimate the need for bringing this issue before the Scottish Parliament. The emotional and physical cost of being diagnosed with an asbestos related condition can be significant and it’s the welfare of the person with the illness that is paramount. However, there is a substantial financial cost to the NHS in diagnosing and managing asbestos related conditions and this is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency
Mr Alan Kirk, Thoracic Surgeon and Director of Clydeside Action on Asbestos:
I would estimate that the real cost to the NHS for diagnosing and managing mesothelioma, which is a tumour in the lining of the lung, is in the region of 60 thousand pounds per patient. This is a significant sum and must be viewed in the context of more people being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions. If these sums can be recovered as part of the civil compensation case, funds are going back into the NHS to help to care for the Scottish population
Dr Fiona Downs a Palliative Care Consultant works at Strathcarron Hospice and has huge experience of caring for victims of asbestos:
There is certainly a noticeable increase in the number of patients with mesothelioma who use the services of the hospice. Our priority is to always treat patients with dignity and treat them as individuals. If legislation was introduced which allowed the costs of NHS and hospice care to be recouped from negligent employers, and the money generated was directed back into hospice care, we would be able to use these funds to continue to improve the services that we can provide to our patients
The introduction of the bill is being supported by the STUC. Its deputy leader Dave Moxham:
The insurance industry has managed to avoid meeting their full responsibilities towards those with an asbestos related disease for decades. It is vital that people who are undergoing investigations for suspected asbestos related disease, or who need ongoing care and support to manage their condition, can access the health services that they need. The NHS and palliative care services currently have to meet these costs from their own overstretched funds. It is time for the employers and the insurance industry to meet their obligations and reimburse the cost of the medical care as these costs would not exist if there had not been negligence on the part of the employer
Thompsons Solicitors, Scotland’s leading law firm representing asbestos victims have also backed the bill. Laura Blane who heads the firm’s lung disease division:
We at Thompsons see at first hand the toll that asbestos disease takes on victims and their families. The medical requirements of our clients are highly specialised and can be required for many years, placing an enormous financial burden on the National Health Service. It is only right that those who cause harm pay for all the consequences of that harm and we fully support this Bill to ensure that the costs of employers’ negligence in failing to deal with the danger of asbestos are met by those employers and their insurers
Notes to Editors
Recovery of NHS costs of treatment for those injured in accidents caused by the negligence of others has been a recognised concept in Scotland since the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999. Initially, the scheme applied only to care needs arising from road traffic accidents however; this was extended in 2003 with the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 to include costs arising out of all types and causes of injury. Section 150 of that Act, however, restricts recovery to costs related treatment of an injury and not a disease.
90% of all asbestos related claims are met by insurance companies. The remaining 10% will be met by self-insured or uninsured businesses still in operation and local authorities. It should be noted that the latter often have insurance in place for periods of time but may on occasion require to meet the compensation from their own funds. The figures are supplied by Thompsons Solicitors who currently hold approximately 80% of the asbestos claims in Scotland.
Based on figures provided by health care professionals involved in the treatment of these asbestos diseases we estimate that the average costs for each of the above noted conditions would be as follows:
Based on the above the potential input being recovered for providing basic treatment/care for an individual with either mesothelioma or asbestos related lung cancer is underestimated at £54,180. The total underestimated figure for settled cases in 2012 is £3,955,140.
For patients with asbestosis or pleural thickening there is a potential to recover an underestimated £20,000 per individual. The total underestimated figure for settled cases in 2012 was £5,480,000.
Cost of Diagnosis
The above figures do not include initial investigations. Where an asbestos condition is identified on chest x ray the individual will be sent for further investigations incurring further costs. These costs would be associated with all asbestos conditions including Pleural Plaque as although there are no costs for treating Pleural Plaques there are initial costs post diagnosis of this condition.
Based on initial research, this suggests in total a potential of over 20 million pounds being recouped back into the NHS each year.
We fully anticipate that our proposal will be met with strong resistance from the Association of British Insurers. We have detailed our estimation of the potential costs of this scheme. This must be considered in the light of the significant profits made by the main three insurers which for the tax year ending April 2012 were as undernoted:
Aviva £60 Million
RSA £427 million
Allianz £191 million
Zurich £642 million
For further information please contact Peter Henderson, Head of Communications and Policy. Thomspons Solicitors: 07887687318
Compensation and Benefits