Industrial diseases: Call to recover treatment cost from business

Lung scan showing cancer Insurers claim legislation would not benefit asbestos sufferers or the NHS

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Ministers have been urged to consider whether businesses and insurers should pay NHS medical bills for all industrial diseases in Wales.

The call comes from AMs considering a bill to give the Welsh government powers to recover the estimated £2m annual cost of treating asbestos patients.

Around 4,500 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases in the UK.

All forms of asbestos were banned from use in the UK in 1999.

The legislation is being proposed by Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, a former solicitor.

Start Quote

We believe the Welsh government should consider the possibility of broadening this model to include other industrial-related illnesses and the implications of such a development”

End Quote Mark Drakeford AM Chair, Health and Social Care committee

But the committee's report questions whether the mechanism for recovering the money is adequate.

Wider implications

Such legislation could result in Welsh ministers recovering costs from bodies they fund, and the report asks if it is sensible to gain compensation from one part of the public sector in order to give it to another.

Health and Social Care Committee chair Mark Drakeford said: "The committee agrees that legislation is necessary to fulfil the general principles of the Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill.

"But we believe the Welsh government should consider the possibility of broadening this model to include other industrial-related illnesses and the implications of such a development.

"The committee also questions whether the mechanism for recovering the significant costs associated with treating asbestos-related diseases is adequate.

"We are recommending that the financial estimates on which this bill is based are updated as quickly as possible ahead of the next stage of the legislative process."

The committee's other recommendations include a call for Mr Antoniw and Welsh ministers to "give further consideration to whether and how the costs of palliative care are included in the tariff".

The bill will now be debated by the full assembly before being considered in more detail.

All forms of asbestos were banned from use in the UK in 1999, after it became widely recognised as a serious health threat.

Used as a fire retardant in buildings, asbestos fibres can cause the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma, and the scarring of the lungs, known as asbestosis.

According to government statistics, 4,500 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases in the UK.

But it can be decades after the initial exposure before the illnesses appears.

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