ABI claims comments are based on hearsay and innuendo

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice has accused the insurance industry of asking doctors not to tell patients they have pleural plaques.

She said it was “disappointing” the industry could suggest such a move and called for an investigation to ensure sufferers were not hit with bigger premiums.

The ABI said it had never made any such formal call for doctors to keep diagnoses to themselves and was not aware of any individual insurer doing so either.

A spokesman said: “A lot of this debate is focused on hearsay and innuendo.”

In the House of Commons last week Prentice said: “Any doctors told to behave in such a way would rightly stick to their professional and principled position on the treatment of their patients. It is grossly irresponsible to suggest that doctors should not tell patients what illness or disease they have, nor explain in detail the consequences. It is disappointing that the insurance industry even thought to suggest such a thing.

“I am worried that, as a result of the House of Lords’ decision, the insurance industry may now question people diagnosed with pleural plaques about their liability. I have even asked for information on that. I am very concerned that the insurance industry may increase people’s insurance payments, in the light of the position taken by the House of Lords, and I would like an investigation into that to ensure that it does not go down that road.”

Prentice spoke out after Blaydon MP David Anderson demanded to know, in a Commons debate, if the government agreed with the industry that: “The best way to avoid pleural plaques becoming a stress-related matter is not to tell the patient that they are suffering from them.”

There has been ongoing debate in the House of Commons by MPs who disagree with the House of Lords’ ruling last year that pleural plaques – benign cysts that form on the inside of the lungs following exposure to asbestos – should not be compensable, a decision that will save the insurance industry about £1.4bn in asbestos-related claims.

The Scottish Parliament has already vowed to change the law and Prentice has conceded that she would not close the door on further talks with campaigning MPs.