Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Bill — 8 Dec 1998

Order for Second Reading read.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill does not introduce any new charges. It simply makes it easier for hospitals to collect from insurance companies charges that they have been entitled to collect for nearly 70 years. The present arrangements simply do not work, so the health service is losing a great deal of money. Nobody really knows how much. Estimates range from about £50 million a year to £500 million. Whatever the figure is, it is clear that, if the charges were collected properly, national health service hospitals would be a lot better off.

Under the present law, there are two charges. One is an emergency treatment fee of £21.30, which is supposed to be collected directly from any driver who needs immediate treatment from a doctor after a road accident. The other charge is supposed to be levied on insurers when a motor accident victim makes a successful claim for compensation. At present, this charge can be up to £295 for out-patient treatment and up to £2,949 for in-patient treatment.

Those charges do not work. They combine minimal income with maximum inconvenience. Last year, they raised just £16 million. To collect the emergency treatment fee, NHS staff must ask injured motorists for the money in the immediate aftermath of an accident. That causes maximum offence to the motorists, who may be in shock or pain. They sometimes get the impression that it is a charge for the use of an NHS ambulance. It is not.

Asking for the money is a rotten task for the staff who are supposed to do it. It is a diversion from their real job of looking after patients. In many cases, the emergency treatment fee is literally more trouble than it is worth.

Such problems are not confined to the emergency treatment fee. Motorists and other victims may be pressed while in accident and emergency, or even in a hospital bed, to say whether they are going to make a claim against somebody who caused the accident. Alternatively, they may be sent a letter out of the blue to ask them the same question.

The problems of collecting the charges do not end there. Hospitals sometimes send out letters to motorists to demand payment of one or both charges. That is because it is up to each hospital to track down the organisation responsible for paying the compensation. Each hospital must calculate the costs of the individual treatment provided to each motor accident victim, separating in-patient treatment costs from out-patient treatment costs. Each hospital then has to track the progress of each compensation claim.

The average motor accident injury claim takes two years to process, and many take much longer. The hospital must bill the insurer, and then chase them up and make sure that the debt has been paid. The motorist can get dragged into the process at various stages.

8 Dec 1998 : Column 161

I beg to move, To leave out from 'That' to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

'this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Bill because the Bill further adds to the burdens the Government has imposed on both commercial and private motorists in that insurance premiums will rise; notes that the proposal did not appear anywhere in the Labour Party's election manifesto, and conflicts with the Government's express opposition to extending charges in the NHS; further notes that these charges will apply only to motorists and not to victims of other insurable accidents; and calls on the Government to clarify its future intentions with regard to both the level and range of any future additional charges in the NHS, and to take into account the impact on the motorist when determining the amounts to be charged.'

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 150, Noes 347.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 112 (+2 tell)070.4%
Lab346 (+2 tell) 0083.5%
LDem0 35076.1%
PC1 0025.0%
SNP0 3050.0%
Total:347 150078.9%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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