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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
NHS 'to claim for work injuries'
Treatment of foot
The NHS could recoup 150m a year from the scheme
The NHS will be able to recover the cost of treating people injured at work under plans being considered.

Hospitals have been able to recoup money from insurance companies for treating people hurt in road accidents for the past five years.

But ministers are consulting on whether to expand the NHS Injury Costs Recovery scheme to include personal injury.

It is thought the majority of the money will come from workplace injuries, helping the NHS to recoup 150m a year.

Together with the road traffic scheme, it will mean the NHS could claim more than 250m - equivalent to 53,000 hip replacements and 11,000 new nurses.

While the majority of claims will involve company accidents, the scheme would also allow the NHS to claim for any form of personal injury.

Hospitals

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "It is unacceptable that taxpayers have to pay for the medical treatment of someone injured at work simply because employers fail to take adequate steps to protect their workforce.

"It will allow hospitals to be able to recover the costs and decide where they want to reinvest that money to improve services."

But Ms Winterton played down fears it would create more red-tape for businesses.

"The scheme will not introduce any more extra regulations for businesses and will be based on the current road accident scheme."

More than three quarters of the public agreed that the NHS should be able to recover the costs of personal injury treatment, according to a Law Commission consultation carried out in 1996.

Cost

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said he welcomed the consultation.

"It is important that negligent employers pay the full cost of their actions rather than expecting the taxpayers to subsidise their failures to protect workers.

"However, it is important that this is not just seen as another cost to be added to insurance premiums and instead is used by the insurance industry as an incentive to improve the measures that employers take to prevent injuries at work."

The Association of British Insurers predicted the scheme would force insurance premiums up by 8%.

But the Institute of Directors said: "Businesses pay tax which pays for the NHS, so why should it pay again for treatment?

"In road accidents it is normally someone's fault but it is not so clear cut with personal injury. It could mean that businesses are left fighting costly and lengthy battles against claims.

"That may just be too much for some, especially small businesses."

The consultation runs until 17 December.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Adam Brimelow
"British insurers have already said that this could lead to an increase in premiums"



SEE ALSO:
Is compensation culture on the rise?
24 Aug 04  |  Have Your Say
Compensation culture 'urban myth'
28 May 04  |  Politics


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