HL Deb 13 December 1999 vol 608 cc5-6WA
Earl Howe

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have carried out a review of the first six months of the operation of the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999; and, if so, what conclusions they have reached. [HL2I5]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

We are reproducing the text of the report of the review of the first six months of operation of the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999. This text was given, in answer to a Parliamentary Question, by my honourable friend the Minister of State for Health ( Mr Hutton), in another place on 11 November 1999 at cols. 813–814.

"The Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 came into effect on 5 April this year. From that date responsibility for the collection of charges passed from individual hospitals to the Secretary of State for Health, with the Compensation Recovery Unit, a part of the Benefits Agency acting on his behalf.

"In the first six months of operation the Compensation Recovery Unit has received notification of 271,251 new claims for compensation following a road traffic accident. One third of these cases have been confirmed as involving treatment at an NHS hospital, one third have no NHS element and one third are currently being checked. This has resulted in the identification of an estimated £40 million potential income for NHS trusts in England, Scotland and Wales, to be released as and when the underlying compensation claims are settled.

"The Compensation Recovery Unit took delivery of a new computer system on 5 April 1999; not only to deal with NHS charge recovery but also to replace the elderly system in place for the recovery of state benefits since 1990. Technical problems with the new computer system have delayed the transfer of around 2 million records of claims for all types of personal injury compensation from the old system to the new. This, in turn, has delayed the collection of NHS charges in many cases where compensation has been paid since the scheme started in April.

"The technical difficulties are now being overcome and the scheme is beginning to deliver significant sums of money to trusts. An initial payment was made at the end of July, when 185 trusts shared £230,305. August saw an improvement to 225 trusts sharing £713,162 and, at the end of September, 230 trusts shared £1,727,942. I can now confirm that the Compensation Recovery Unit recovered, and paid to 255 trusts, a further £3.7 million at the end of October, the largest ever monthly payment to the NHS in respect of recovery following road traffic accidents. This payment significantly exceeds the amounts previously collected by trusts in an average month in 1998–99 and shows a clear trend towards the step change in income we believe the new system will deliver.

"I will be making a further report on progress at the end of December and again at the end of the full financial year".

Since the review was published, we have been advised by the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) that the figure of 271,251 new claims was the total number of cases (all liabilities) entered onto the new computer system between April and the end of September this year and, of these, 153,165 should have been identified as relating to road traffic accidents and being notified to CRU for the first time. This correction does not affect the rest of the review.

The review concluded that the system was beginning, at the end of the first six months, to deliver sums to NHS trusts which showed a clear trend towards the step change in income we believe the new system will deliver. That conclusion has been strengthened with the payment of a further £5.7 million to trusts at the end of November and good progress with the migration of settled cases. We expect that the further reviews, promised at the end of December and at the end of the financial year, will confirm this conclusion.