Consultation into recovering costs from asbestos-related illnesses praised by campaigners
A proposed bill which would make it possible for the NHS to claw back costs from companies regarding asbestos-related illnesses has opened for consultation.
Campaigners say NHS Scotland spends more than £20 million a year diagnosing and treating people from the effects of exposure to asbestos and believe this should be recouped from manufacturing companies who have long rejected responsibility for the problem.
Although the NHS has been able to recover the costs of treating the victims of accidents since 2003, it does not cover diseases.
Campaigners say a new law is needed to include asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma.
Those companies who can afford to pay should contribute to the treatment. It’s only fair
The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases Bill has been backed by charity Clydeside Action on Asbestos, whose chairwoman Phyllis Craig said: "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."
Asbestos is now the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. About 5,000 workers a year - including 20 tradespeople every week - are dying because of previous exposure to it.
And the effects are showing no signs of slowing. The most recent figures from the Health and Safety Executive predict UK cases of mesothelioma will not start to decline until 2020.
Bob Dart, who successfully won an award against his former employer after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, said he hoped the bill would bring more employers to book.
“It’s only right they contribute to the costs from the often vast profits these companies made,” he said. “While I understand many companies historically didn’t know about the health implications of asbestos, many did and carried on regardless.
“Those companies who can afford to pay should contribute to the treatment. It’s only fair.”