Asbestos – Who Should Pay The Costs?

Asbestos – Who Should Pay The Costs?

Recent news reports reveal that there is a new bill in Scotland which aims to allow NHS Scotland to recover some of the costs of caring for people who have contracted industrial diseases such as fatal mesothelioma.  The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill has come about after years of campaigning by Clydesdale Action on Asbestos and Nationalist West of Scotland MSP, Stuart McMillan.

It’s estimated that NHS Scotland spends more than £20 million every year on diagnosing and treating people who are suffering from the effects of asbestos exposure.  This averages about £60,000 per patient.  With the number of sufferers expected to increase in coming years, the costs are also set to increase.

Clydesdale Action on Asbestos (CAA) is a registered charity that was launched in 1984 to offer assistance and advice to those suffering from asbestos related diseases and is billed as the first asbestos support group in the UK.  CAA has an established reputation for providing expert information and advice as well as campaigning on behalf of people affected by asbestos related diseases (including the families of sufferers).

This new bill means that the NHS and palliative care services will be able to recoup the treatment costs from insurance companies who have already settled civil claims with sufferers.   Treatment costs will be calculated from the date of the initial diagnosis and it’s expected that this new law will pave the way for recovery costs for other work-related diseases.

Although the NHS has been able to recover the cost of treating victims of accidents since 2003 if an individual made a successful claim against a third party, the principle does not cover diseases.  Similar legislation was passed by the Welsh Assembly Government (Llywodraeth Cymru) but this has been delayed by a legal question on whether or not the Assembly has the power to enact the legislation.  Solicitors believe that Scotland’s greater devolved powers will prevent a similar hold up there.

West Scotland MSP, Stuart McMillan has disclosed that he expects strong opposition to the bill from insurers.  However, the bill is backed by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) whose deputy leader, Dave Moxham has said that “it is vital that people who are undergoing investigations for suspected asbestos-related diseases can access the health services that they need”.

He believes that the time has come for employers and the insurance industry to honour their obligations and reimburse the medical care costs as these costs would not have arisen if there had not been negligence on the part of employers.

With companies already having to pay the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for any benefits paid out as a direct result of asbestos related illnesses, there is sure to be strong opposition to this new bill.