The BMA has said it will monitor the impact a new law that seeks to recover the cost of treating asbestos-related diseases from businesses.
The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill was passed by AMs and could generate up to £1m for the NHS in the country.
Pontypridd Labour AM Mick Antoniw, who sponsored the bill, said: ‘For many of those suffering from asbestos disease, negligence and breaches of health and safety law by former employers can be established in civil actions for compensation brought by sufferers and their families.
‘The cost of treating asbestos disease places a huge financial strain on an already over-stretched NHS in Wales. I believe that where an employer has been negligent and civil compensation is due NHS Wales should be reimbursed with the cost of medical treatment.
’It is only right that medical costs incurred by the NHS should be recovered from those who caused the disease and used to give more support to asbestos victims and their families.
‘For example, a cancer nurse costs £50,000 per annum. We could employ an additional 20 cancer nurses or a mixture of cancer nurses and counsellors or additional research into the cause and treatment of asbestos disease. It is my belief this new Welsh law can make a significant improvement to the quality of life of those whose life is blighted by this terrible disease.’
BMA Welsh secretary Richard Lewis said it was right that people affected by diseases caused by asbestos were rightly compensated.
He said: ‘This is an innovative piece of legislation and we will watch with interest the impact this new law will have.’
The bill had caused some controversy. Last December, the Welsh Assembly’s presiding officer Rosemary Butler certified that the bill was within the assembly’s powers but admitted that aspects of the legislation were ‘finely balanced’.
The bill was passed by AMs by 38 votes to 10 with the Conservatives voting against.