As the nation marks Action Mesothelioma Day, a leading law firm fears cancer diagnosis delays during COVID-19 could mean asbestos sufferers miss out on vital legal support.

It has been reported that cancer referrals in England dropped by as much as 60 per cent during April, while statistics show that the number of people in England waiting longer than six weeks for tests and scans increased five-fold between March and April. With normality yet to resume, Thompsons Solicitors is urging anyone with potential asbestos disease symptoms to contact their GP as soon as possible, as an earlier diagnosis not only increases the medical help available but also improves the chances of pursuing a successful compensation claim.

Andrew Venn, national practice lead for asbestos at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “While the sale and use of asbestos was banned in 1999, 2,500 people still die from asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma, every year because of exposure decades earlier.

“No one wants a diagnosis of asbestos related disease, but if that is a risk knowing is better than not. If diagnosed early, getting access to specialist treatment is much more likely and earlier knowledge also increases the chances that legal support can deliver compensation. We fear that delays in referrals and hesitation about visiting a GP during the pandemic, while understandable, could see fewer people making the link between their illness and exposure at work and it will be the families of those who become ill not the employers who exposed them that will face the financial consequences.

“Early asbestos-related cancer diagnoses at the point when symptoms – such as breathlessness, coughing and chest pain – first show, means that the person can seek support from local asbestos support groups and have a fighting chance of finding out answers on how they were exposed in their lifetime. Knowing in time means the sufferer can produce a statement and provide evidence of where they were exposed and for many families, this closure is more important than anything.”

"We fear that delays in referrals and hesitation about visiting a GP during the pandemic, while understandable, could see fewer people making the link between their illness and exposure at work and it will be the families of those who become ill not the employers who exposed them that will face the financial consequences."

Andrew Venn, national practice lead for asbestos at Thompsons Solicitors

Liz Darlison, head of services at Mesothelioma UK, said: “Cancer services are getting back on track and the number of people being referred is increasing each week. There has been significant work done to ensure sufficient capacity for investigations and tests to meet need of referrals whilst adhering to the increased cleaning requirements.

“It is important that those people who have concerns that they, or a loved one, might have an asbestos disease, should contact their GP immediately. Even in these extremely challenging times, no one should be left worrying and we urge them to seek medical attention if required.

The UK has a dedicated team of mesothelioma nurses, there are numerous support groups and specialist lawyers available around the country who are there to help, every step of the way.”

This year sees the first virtual Action Mesothelioma Day events held, due to the pandemic. Speakers, including patients and clinical experts, will join Mesothelioma UK and regional asbestos support groups to highlight the ongoing damage historic asbestos exposure is causing across the country.

Click here to find out about the asbestos support you can receive in your region.

For specialist advice or to start a claim, call us on 0800 0224 0224, or email asbestos@thompsons.law.co.uk with your contact details and a member of the specialist team in your local area will be in touch.