Industrial Diseases Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament

This week, Stuart McMillan MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde introduced his Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament that seeks to enable the recovery of costs incurred by the NHS in Scotland for treating people with industrial diseases.

The Liability for NHS Charges (Treatment of Industrial Disease) (Scotland) Bill amends Part 3 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 so as to bring within its scope NHS costs incurred in treating industrial diseases. This will allow Scottish Ministers to recover those costs from negligent employers.

Commenting, Stuart said:

“I’ve been working on this Member’s Bill for some time, and am delighted that I’m now able to introduce it in the Scottish Parliament.

“Currently, where an injured person requires treatment at an NHS hospital in Scotland, including ambulance services, any person who compensates that injured person is liable to pay for relevant NHS charges in respect of those hospital and ambulance costs. My Bill will therefore expand on the definition of injury to include industrial diseases.

“This will include people who are exposed to harmful substances, such as dust, fumes, and chemicals, or harmful activities, such as using vibrating tools or carrying out repetitive processes. Sometimes, harmful working environments can cause industrial injuries, such as working in a loud factory.

“Due to the nature of this piece of legislation however, my Bill is not retrospective. That means it will only apply in cases where all or some of the exposure resulting in the diagnosis of an industrial disease has occurred after my Bill has come into force.

“Given industrial diseases often manifest over a long period of time, some people might think this Bill will not be effective. However, by putting more onus on employers to ensure their employees are well looked after at work, otherwise they may be liable to pay for their treatment if they are diagnosed with an industrial disease, health and safety across Scotland should improve.

“In addition, the industrial diseases that people are diagnosed with in say 50 to a 100 years’ time might be very different to what we’re dealing with now, and therefore might also require different treatment.

“Special thanks must be paid to Thompsons Solicitors and Action on Asbestos – Industrial Injury and Disease (formerly Clydeside Action on Asbestos) for bringing this issue to my attention, and helping inform every stage of the Bill.

“I hope my Bill will help recover vital monies for the NHS in Scotland, while also forcing industries and employers to be more proactive in terms of health and safety in the workplace.”

Laura Blane, Partner at Thompsons Solicitors who pursue compensation for hundreds of victims of industrial disease and injury each year, said:

“I am delighted that after several years of working with Action on Asbestos and the Scottish Government on this issue that this Bill is finally moving forward. The cost of industrial disease to our health service is enormous and it is only right that those who negligently cause these diseases should pick up the bill.”

Phyllis Craig MBE, Director and Senior Welfare Rights Officer at Action on Asbestos (previously Clydeside Action on Asbestos) stated:

“We are delighted that the Bill to recover the costs of NHS treatments for those who have sustained an injury or disease through their work will finally be introduced into the Scottish Parliament. This is an issue that we have been raising for some time, as medical professionals throughout Scotland greatly need additional resources.

“The costs to the NHS of treating people with industrial injuries should be met by the insurers as part of the civil compensation process. My hope is that the Bill will ultimately recover all costs of treatments provided by the NHS, as this will mean that it will be the liability of insurers to meet the costs of diagnosing, managing and treating those who have suffered an injury or illness and this can be enshrined in law.”

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