HC Deb 11 November 1999 vol 337 cc814-5W
Mr. Dismore

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much has been recovered from insurers of those responsible for road accidents under the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999; in how many cases recovery has been achieved; and if he will make a statement. [97802]

Mr. Hutton

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 my right hon. Friend 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 £40m 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 two 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.

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