Doctors and nurses dying of asbestos related cancer

Doctors and nurses dying of asbestos related cancer through hospital negligence

There is a hidden epidemic that the NHS is quietly trying to deal with but has so far cost the NHS more than £25,000,000.

The Independent published a story about a 44-year-old doctor who contracted asbestos related cancer whilst training as a junior doctor. Many older hospitals and medical establishments were lax when it came to protective measures for dealing with asbestos in ceiling tiles on hospital wards, and other maintenance work - despite being warned of the risks. Sadly, as a result of their negligence, hundreds of NHS staff have now been diagnosed with asbestos related cancers and similar diseases.  Asbestos is a silent killer, often lying dormant for decades whilst it slowly develops, causing serious health issues and death in later life.

When we think of asbestos, it is usually linked back to industrial workers, but this is not always the case. As well as doctors and nurses, many other workers such as office workers, came in to contact with asbestos when their offices were being renovated and asbestos fibres were inhaled, mixed in with the dust. 

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the collective term for a group of six naturally occurring minerals made up of microscopic needle-like fibres. Asbestos was often used to fireproof and strengthen materials as well as for insulation and flooring. It was even sprayed on to ceilings and walls. In the traditional industries it was viewed as a wonder material with so many beneficial uses, as these fibres have the ability to resist fire and electricity. Many manual workers came into contact with asbestos on a regular basis despite the first publications on the dangers of asbestos being released into the public domain as early as the 1920s.

Asbestos related illnesses and deaths were on the rise; many of the sufferers were miners and factory workers who came into regular contact with asbestos through their work. In 1985, parliament banned the use of certain types of asbestos in the UK, leading to a complete ban just before the turn of the century. Sadly though, asbestos is still a problem, one that many people become aware of only when it is too late.

So just how does asbestos become so deadly?

When materials containing asbestos become disturbed, tiny fibres are released into the air which can then be inhaled into the lungs. Over time, these fibres become trapped in the lungs, cause scarring and inflammation, making breathing difficult and in turn causing severe health implications.

Thankfully, measures have now been put in place to minimise the risks of coming into contact with asbestos, but it may still be present in older buildings.

What sort of illnesses are caused by exposure to Asbestos?

Asbestos exposure can cause the following illnesses:

  • Asbestosis
  • pleural plaques
  • pleural thickening and
  •  benign pleural effusions.

The above illnesses are mostly non-malignant, meaning they are not cancerous. They are however very serious illnesses. They are often detected when sufferers are short of breath, cough up blood and have been plagued by a persistent cough. Evidence suggests that sufferers are also put at a significantly heightened risk of lung cancer.

Unfortunately, asbestos exposure has been heavily linked to a rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma

Mesothelioma – the facts

Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen. The name derives from mesothelium, which is the thin membrane that lines the inner surface of the lungs and surrounds the cavities that house the chest, heart and intestines. The lining thickens slowly over time and presses on to the lungs causing irreversible damage. Mesothelioma is often diagnosed two to three decades after the exposure as it is a slow developing illness. Mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed in men over the age of 75 but women are also affected.

I think I may I have come into contact with asbestos – what should I do?

It is important to note that not all contact with asbestos causes the above illnesses. Those who had prolonged or direct exposure to asbestos, such as factory workers and indeed medical staff, are at a higher risk of having contracted an asbestos related illness. If any of the above sounds all too familiar to you and you have been suffering with a persistent cough that just won’t go away, fatigue, weight loss, chest pain, bloating and swelling and even clubbed finger tips, contact your GP who can arrange for the appropriate tests such as X-rays, CT scans and biopsy.    

Treatment and support

The earlier the illness is detected the better the chances of treatment. Sadly, in cases where mesothelioma has been diagnosed, the illness is often terminal, and the aim should be to prolong and preserve the quality of life as much as possible. There are many support groups such as Mesothelioma UK and the British Lung Foundation, that can provide assistance.

How can we help you?

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness and you think it came about through your work, call us without delay. Our specialist asbestos compensation solicitors will talk you and your family through the process and answer any questions you may have. There is no obligation to make a claim.   Whilst we cannot reverse time, we may be able to secure you a compensation pay out to make both your and your family’s lives that little bit easier.

To start an asbestos compensation claim or to find out more about how you make a claim, please contact us today by calling 0333 123 9099 or email