One of Thompsons Solicitors’ asbestos experts has commented on the ongoing issue of asbestos in hospitals following a BBC Look North investigation into the issue.

A BBC freedom of information request found that £3.5m had been paid out by NHS Trusts across the UK in asbestos compensation claims over the last five years. However, there are fears that this doesn’t paint the full picture as people across the UK continue to suffer as a result of asbestos conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural thickening.

Helen Tomlin, a specialist asbestos solicitor at Thompsons’ Leeds office, commented on the BBC investigation: “Asbestos remains a huge threat for anyone working in buildings constructed before 1999, when the use of asbestos was made illegal. While industrial buildings are obvious areas for concern, public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, continue to have asbestos materials present in them.

“Our experience fits with what the BBC has uncovered. In the past two years alone, our asbestos specialists have secured at least £10m in compensation for hospital workers, and those who have been exposed to asbestos on hospital sites. Many of these people have been avoidably exposed to asbestos and their compensation may not be reflected in the figure above. We also fear there are many other people who have been exposed and made ill but have never made a compensation claim.”

According to the Health and Safety Executive, there were more than 2,500 mesothelioma deaths in 2016, while thousands more die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. It is anticipated that the number of asbestos fatalities will not peak until 2020.

"Until we have a better idea of the prevalence of asbestos in hospitals across the UK, we cannot begin to understand the scale of the problem. The only way this can be achieved is through a national audit, so that we can stop anyone else being exposed to asbestos in hospitals in the future."

Helen Tomlin
Specialist Asbestos Solicitor

Thompsons Solicitors is currently highlighting the stories of communities affected by asbestos exposure in the past with its #PastButPresent campaign.

Helen continued: “Until we have a better idea of the prevalence of asbestos in hospitals across the UK, we cannot begin to understand the scale of the problem. The only way this can be achieved is through a national audit, so that remedial work can begin, proper precautions can be put in place, and we can stop anyone else being exposed to asbestos in hospitals in the future.

“Unfortunately, there are thousands of people who have already developed asbestos diseases, for whom an audit will be too little, too late. However, this doesn’t mean the help stops there. Those who have been exposed, or have a loved one who has become ill, can be compassionately supported through a claim and signposted to support groups that can help people access benefits and advice on managing their illness.

“If you have developed an asbestos disease, regardless of whether you worked for the NHS or were contracted to work at a hospital, we can help – just get in touch with our specialists today.”