The Hidden Asbestos Epidemic
A dying doctor has warned of a ‘hidden epidemic’ caused by NHS failures.
The mother of two has just months to live and is warning the public about asbestos related cancers among NHS staff and patients because hospitals have failed to properly handle the toxic material. Kate Richmond has spoken out to raise awareness, after she won a legal case against the NHS, for negligently exposing her to asbestos while she was working as a medical student and junior doctor.
One investigation by The Independent has found that there have been as many as 13 prosecutions, since 2021, linked to NHS breaches of regulations regarding the handling of asbestos.
Furthermore, 381 compensation claims have been made by NHS staff, since 2013, for work related diseases, including exposure to asbestos. This has cost the NHS more than £26 million.
On top of this, according to data from the Health and Safety Executive, between 2011 and 2017 a total of 128 people working in health and social care roles have died from mesothelioma, the same asbestos-related cancer that is killing Kate Richmond.
Kate recalls that maintenance staff removed asbestos ceiling tiles with no protective measures. Allowing dust and debris to fall in to wards where patients were in bed and staff were working. Managers at the Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry failed to acknowledge warnings, by workers, that they were putting people at risk.
Kate believes the true extent of this issue is likely to be much worse than the current data suggests, as it can take up to 50 years for asbestos related diseases to emerge, after exposure. Kate was exposed to asbestos between 1998 and 2004, as well as the exposure during maintenance, she frequently used service tunnels where asbestos-lined pipes were common.