Scotland politics

Views wanted on asbestos claim bill

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Image caption Campaigners said NHS Scotland spends at least £20m a year treating people for asbestos exposure

A consultation on a new legislation to allow the medical costs for treating the victims of asbestos-related diseases to be reclaimed has begun.

Campaigners said NHS Scotland spends more than £20m a year diagnosing and treating people from the effects of exposure to asbestos.

A proposed bill would allow the NHS to claw back those costs from companies who exposed their workers.

The legislation was brought forward by SNP backbencher Stuart McMillan.

The NHS has been able to recover the costs of treating the victims of accidents since 2003, where an individual makes a successful claim against a third party.

However, this principle does not cover diseases, and campaigners say a new law is needed to include asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma.

The long fight

In October, the BBC's Alicia Queiro reported on the families across the country fighting for compensation, after their loved ones became terminally ill through exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is now the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. About 5,000 workers a year - including 20 tradesmen every week - are dying because of previous exposure to it.

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.

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."

Supporters of the bill have urged people across Scotland to have their say on the legislation.

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