In Scotland, an asbestos victim support group “Clydeside Action on Asbestos” have prompted a debate within the Scottish Parliament regarding the NHS bill that is generated from treating sufferers of asbestos related diseases. They argue that if an insurance company is held liable to compensate an asbestos sufferer for the injuries they sustained due to exposure to this deadly substance, the insurer should be liable to repay the NHS for the treatment that the sufferer received. Aside from the fact that this debate took place within Scottish Parliament, this certainly raises an interesting debate surrounding the future of the law surrounding asbestos.
It is estimated that the NHS spend around £20 million on both diagnosing and treating those who have been exposed to asbestos and have contracted an asbestos related condition. These include mesothelioma (the most serious), asbestosis, asbestos warts, pleural plaques and diffuse pleural thickening. There is no treatment that can reverse the effects of asbestos on the lungs. However, there are treatments in place relieve symptoms and prevent or delay complications. Treatment methods include oxygen therapy to relieve shortness of breath, respiratory physiotherapy to remove sections of the lungs and medications to relieve pain and thin secretions.
The main thrust of the argument is that it is unfair that the financial burden of providing healthcare and treatment for asbestos related diseases to be placed solely on the taxpayer. If the employer at fault is insured, why should they not they responsible for paying for treating what they caused? The insurance industry will inevitably argue that it is down to the Government to cover the NHS’s bill.
Arguably, if medical treatment for asbestos-related diseases were to become funded by insurers, it would open the flood gates where victims of various illnesses could argue that an insurer should be liable to pay for their treatment too. Jackson Carlow, a Conservative, commented that if the insurance industry does have to reimburse the NHS, would the NHS have recourse against food manufacturers in relation to obesity?
At present, privately paid healthcare can be recovered as an element of a Personal Injury Claim. NHS charges are recovered for any hospital treatment received as an inpatient or an outpatient, and the party paying the compensation (“the Compensator”) is liable to repay the NHS charges. The NHS charges are recovered by the Compensation Recovery Unit, however the charges are capped. In 2014 the cap is £46,831. If contributory negligence is proven, there will be a deduction in the NHS charges payable by the Compensator.
It is yet to be seen if the law surrounding asbestos in Scotland will be dramatically evolving, and whether UK law will follow suit. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, you may be able to make an asbestos compensation claim. Contact us today and speak to one of our experienced personal injury solicitors for a free claim evaluation today.