Campaigners launch updated bill after cynical insurance bosses break promises to victims’ charity
MSPs are being asked to throw their weight behind a new bill that will make the insurance industry pay back The Scottish NHS for the cost of treating people who have contracted any industrial illness or injury. The bill, being launched by West of Scotland MSP Stuart McMillan, will compel insurers who have had to pay civil compensation for the disease or injury to also meet the NHS costs of their treatment and care.
This updated bill has been launched following a disgraceful breach of trust by insurance bosses who used shabby tactics to derail a previous bill designed to refund the NHS over asbestos victims.
Stuart McMillan had proposed a bill last year that would seek to recover NHS costs for asbestos related conditions. Following the launch of a formal consultation, the Association of British Insurers requested a meeting to discuss if an agreement could be reached without the need for a new law being introduced. In an act of good faith Phyllis Craig MBE, Director of Clydeside Action on Asbestos and Stuart McMillian agreed to meet them. Phyllis explained:
We expected strong resistance from the insurance industry so when they approached us for a meeting we agreed to meet to discuss all possible options. The meeting went ahead with the ABI and we were specifically told that the insurance industry was supportive of the need for funds to be directed back into the Scottish NHS. The ABI actually asked that CAA and Stuart McMillan take the Bill off the Parliamentary table in order that they could present us with an acceptable proposal of funding in order to have an alternative solution to the Bill. We took them at their word and in the spirit of co-operation decided to work with them.
However once we took the Bill of the table the insurers broke their word and told us they were not willing to consider any alternative ways to achieve compensation for The Scottish NHS. We are now left with no option but to continue to support the need for a law to be passed to compel the insurers to meet their responsibilities. It would seem that the apparent interest of the insurers was simply a cynical attempt to derail the legislative process. It really is an underhand and disgraceful way for the insurers to treat our NHS and the men and women suffering terribly from industrial illness.
Jane Capaldi, 62, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2015
When the consultant sat me down and explained that I had an illness caused by asbestos I was absolutely stunned. I couldn’t believe what the doctor was saying and I didn’t actually take in anything that I was told. It took me while to digest the fact that I had a terminal illness. Since then, there have been many nurses and doctors involved in my care and I am extremely grateful for this. Ensuring that there are enough staff and resources in the NHS to help people with an asbestos related disease is essential. I should never have been exposed to asbestos and I strongly believe that those who do expose people to asbestos must pay not only compensation to the victim, but also reimburse the NHS. This is very important to me because we need to ensure that the services and support continue to be in place and improved on for people living with an asbestos related condition.
Stuart McMillan MSP added:
The one positive to come out of the year long delay is that it has given us time to think about the proposal in a wider context. Whilst recouping NHS costs for one group of people with an industrial illness would be a great step forward, we recognise there are significant costs to the NHS from treating other industrial illnesses and injuries. We need to ensure that the cost to the NHS of those who have been left with debilitating injuries through accidents at work along with individuals who have developed health problems as a result of their working environment are also recovered. This updated bill could potentially generate millions for the NHS. It was estimated last year that the cost to the NHS for investigating and treating people with an asbestos related condition was around £20 million. As this bill will cover all industrial injuries and illnesses, the potential gains to the NHS will be far in excess of this
Dr Alistair Dorward, Consultant Respiratory Physician, who has a long-standing interest in asbestos related diseases, stated:
There are very significant costs to the NHS for investigating, diagnosing and treating people who have work related injuries and illnesses. If negligent employers and insurers were liable to repay these costs to the NHS, then there would be the obvious financial gain for the NHS.
Mr Eddie Smith, who has asbestosis, is a member of the Forth Valley support group he commented:
This time last year, Charlie Bridgewater, who was also a member of the Forth Valley support group, was raising awareness of the need for insurers to meet their responsibilities. Charlie had mesothelioma and had nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses, and NHS staff who were caring for him. Although he was extremely ill, he wanted to speak out about the importance of insurers having to repay the NHS for the costs of his care, as it was their responsibility to do so. Charlie sadly died shortly after he gave his last interview and a year has now passed since Stuart McMillan’s first bill to recoup costs was raised. It seems to me that the insurers have delayed the process for long enough. We all need to come together to support the need for a law that would force the insurance industry to pay up
Laura Blane, solicitor advocate, and an expert in asbestos legal cases with Thompsons Solicitors added:
The insurance industry have once again shown their complete lack of concern for people with an asbestos related disease. Whilst the estimated cost of investigating and treating people with an asbestos related condition in Scotland is substantial for the NHS, £20 million is a very small amount for the insurance industry. On a case by case basis, the additional costs to the insurers would have been insignificant. This will no longer be the case when Holyrood legislates for recovery of costs for all industrial illnesses and injuries.
Further information or to arrange an interview please contact Phyllis Craig MBE at Clydeside Action on Asbestos:
email@example.com Telephone: 0141 552 8852