Campagining at the Scottish Parliament

Consultation begins on New Asbestos Law which will Recover Millions for NHS Scotland

The formal consultation process on a new bill designed to re-claim the medical costs of treating people suffering from asbestos related diseases begins today. The bill is backed by Clydeside Action on Asbestos and is being taken forward as a members bill at Holyrood by 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 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. This 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 exits 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.

Clydeside Action anticipate the bill will meet with very strong resistance from the Association of British Insurers but we 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:

Today is a very important milestone in our efforts to get this law on the statute books but also in the wider fight against the awful effects that asbestos disease causes to thousands of Scots. We are urging Civic Scotland and wider society to engage with our consultation to make clear their views. It is widely accepted that the number of people being diagnosed with asbestos conditions is increasing 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 staff to asbestos. It is only just that the employers and their insurers have to meet the costs of care that result from their negligence.

The importance of the start of the consultation process was also recognised by Charlie Bridgewater a 69 year old father of two from Falkirk who has been diagnosed with a terminal asbestos condition. Charlie commented

Since I was first diagnosed I have been overwhelmed by the professionalism and compassion shown by the NHS staff treating me. It’s just reafirms all my beliefs in what a unique and amazing institution our NHS is. I also know that the treatment I have received has been costly and that financial pressures are a constant worry for those that run the health service. How can it be right that the people who were negligent and exposed me to this substance which ruined my health pay nothing towards the cost? This is simply wrong and must be changed. Employers and the rich insurance industry must be held responsible for these costs. I have a terminal condition caused by asbestos so I may not live to see this bill become law but when it does it will be a fitting tribute to the thousands of Scots afflicted by these awful diseases and our NHS that treats them.

Stuart McMillan, MSP, who has given his longstanding support to people with asbestos related disease is taking forward the bill at Holyrood. He is confident that the consultation process will see a large number of organisations and concerned Scots making their views clear

It is estimated that over £20million per year is spent by NHS Scotland diagnosing and treating people suffering from the horrendous effects of asbestos exposure. This bill will allow the NHS to re-coup some of these costs and could be used to help future patients.

Mr Alan Kirk, thoracic Surgeon and a leading medical specialist on asbestos conditions, is a director of Clydeside Action on Asbestos. He said

I would estimate that the real cost to the NHS for diagnosing and managing a condition like mesothelioma 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. I would urge as many people as possible to take part in this consultation so we can send a clear message of support for the bill’s progress.

The bill and the consultation process has also received firm support from STUC. Its deputy leader Dave Moxham said

The insurance industry has managed to avoid meeting their full responsibilities towards those with an asbestos related disease for decades. 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. I know that the Scottish Trade Union movement and wider Civic Scotland will use this consultation to give the proposed law their full backing.


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. These 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:

Mesothelioma/Lung cancer

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.

Asbestosis/Pleural thickening

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 our 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

People wishing to take part in the consultation should visit:

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