Friday 16 November 2018

Dangerous rise in asbestos-related disease in north east

The boom of North Sea oil in the 1970’s is responsible for an increase in asbestos-related disease in the north east of Scotland.

At our recent conference at the Jurys Inn Hotel in Aberdeen, we voiced these concerns about tradesmen across the north east being exposed to asbestos due to an increase in construction in the area from the oil boom.

It transpired that more asbestos sufferers have passed away this year across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray than those that had been killed in car accidents throughout 2017.

We hope the medical community will help fill in the gaps in care for some of these individuals by giving more information about the availability of specialist, local support as soon as someone is diagnosed with an asbestos related disease.

John Fearn, manager at Asbestos Action, said: “The harm caused by asbestos in Scotland is not an issue isolated to the central belt. In the last few years across the north-east, the numbers of those in need of health, social and legal support have increased at an unprecedented rate – so much so that we’ve had to employ an Aberdeen-based respiratory nurse to assist those in need.

“The background of many of our clients in this area has led us to believe their conditions have been contracted by working in trades during a boom in construction work linked to the wealth generated by the oil and gas industry.

“Conditions like, asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma have caused the deaths of 16 of our north-east clients in the last 10 months alone.

“If people were to be killed in such numbers on our roads across the north-east, then roads safety issues would rightly be highlighted to the public – however we rarely hear of public health initiatives to support victims of asbestos exposure or reduce the numbers of those affected.

“Asbestos Action will continue to support everyone we can and we encourage everyone – especially GPs and social care officials – to be mindful of the need for local, specialist and personal advice and support for individuals and their families so they are prepared for the future.”

Over 40 years ago, the oil boom led to growth in the construction industry. Additionally shipyards were given a new lease of life, with new vessels being required in order to transport both workers and equipment to offshore oil and gas platforms.

Unfortunately, a number of firms throughout this period did not pay enough attention to the known risks of asbestos exposure and were careless when following asbestos safety rules, while others chose to ignore them completely. This led to numerous tradesmen being exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres every day at work.

This has led to a number of these employees to develop various asbestos conditions ranging from pleural plaques, which is scarring of the lining of the lung caused by asbestos, to mesothelioma, a terminal lung cancer which can prove fatal within weeks of diagnosis.

Fraser Simpson, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors is Head of the Industrial Disease team, which has worked with many hundreds of individuals, investigating historical exposure to asbestos and securing sufferers and their families’ justice by holding previous employers to account.

Their Industrial Disease team have secured more than £1.3 million in compensation for asbestos sufferers and their families in the North East in the last 18 months alone, with further legal cases still to settle. Mr Simpson, who is also spoke at the conference, added: “North-east cases are becoming increasingly common and the tragic thing about this is that the numbers we have only relate to those who have stepped forward to launch a civil action. “I’m in no doubt that others will be out there but are unaware of how to go about seeking legal assistance.

“This is why it is important to highlight the issues to sufferers and healthcare professionals, to bridge the gaps in support. Someone diagnosed with any asbestos-related disease, no matter how benign, could lose their right to justice if they fail to seek specialist advice and support within three years of the date of the original diagnosis. This is true even if they then go on develop a more serious asbestos disease.”

Friday 19 October 2018

“Mind the Gap!” was the asbestos message at GP conference

Mind the Gap was the message to GPs from both Asbestos Action and Clydebank Asbestos Group as representatives of the Scottish panel groups at Asbestos Victims Forum UK.

We headed along to one of the biggest GP events Royal College of General Practitioners Annual Primary Care Conference & Exhibition held in Glasgow on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October.

Our primary goal was to raise awareness with GPs about the help and assistance available to people diagnosed with an asbestos related disease via Forum support groups and the rights of victims and their families to claim benefits, or civil damages.

The stark warning to health professionals is that victims of asbestos disease in Scotland could miss out on their right to pursue a civil damages claim if they do not raise a case within 3 years of diagnosis of any asbestos related disease.

What does this mean? Asbestos victims who later develop a separate asbestos disease that is life threatening could be barred from seeking damages if they did not take legal steps to claim compensation following an earlier diagnosis of a less serious asbestos disease. For example, people diagnosed with pleural plaques in Scotland are able to seek damages in Scotland, unlike in England and Wales, but many health professionals still regard this condition as benign or clinically insignificant.

Dianne Foster from Asbestos Action, Hope Robertson from Clydebank Asbestos Group and John Fearn from Asbestos Action
Dianne Foster from Asbestos Action, Hope Robertson from Clydebank Asbestos Group and John Fearn from Asbestos Action

John Fearn, Manager of Forum group Asbestos Action commented, “This event was a real success. I was quite surprised how many GP’s we chatted with who were unaware of the potential entitlement of asbestos victims or their families to receive benefits or seek compensation. Hopefully by us being there at the conference we have begun to fill that gap in knowledge.”

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Fundraising marathon with Digby Brown raises £8,000

On the 6th April, as part of Asbestos Awareness week, Dianne Foster from Asbestos Action joined the Industrial Disease Legal team from Digby Brown to walk an incredible 26 miles along the Fife Coastal path to raise funds for Asbestos Action.

The route between Leven and Rosyth commemorates those who died after being exposed to asbestos at work sites along the route, now known as notorious exposure sites, including the oil rig construction yard in Methil and shipbuilders in Burntisland and Rosyth.

The walkers were also joined by Jan Fury, who lost her son to mesothelioma. She said: “I know first-hand the importance of efforts like this walk because towards the end of my son’s life I had no idea what to do, where to turn and how to act.

“But Asbestos Action guided me through everything and still offer friendship to this day and the fact that people still champion this cause makes me feel so humbled.”

Dianne Foster, Asbestos Action and Jan Fury
Dianne Foster, Asbestos Action and Jan Fury

The team managed to raise an amazing £8,000 for Asbestos Action. Dianne Foster said: “The walk had its challenges in the form of sore bones and blisters, but it’s nothing compared to what our clients and their families go through every day. “We’re delighted to have raised such a great sum and would like to thank those who took part in the walk and to everyone else who selflessly donated to the cause.”

Asbestos-related diseases are caused by exposure to asbestos fibres which thousands of workers were exposed to. Up until the late 1970s, asbestos was widely used in heavy industries such as shipbuilding but employers failed to provide the correct safety equipment or breathing apparatus to protect workers from exposure to asbestos fibres.

It can take decades after asbestos exposure before victims begin to see symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain and persistent coughing. These harmful fibres can lead to benign conditions such as pleural plaques, where the lining of the lungs calcify or terminal cancers like mesothelioma which can prove to be fatal just weeks after being diagnosed.

Today asbestos related conditions are responsible for around 3,000 deaths in the UK each year. This is more than the number of people killed on the roads.

Fraser Simpson, Partner and Head of Digby Brown’s Industrial Disease department said: “I have fought for countless individuals and their families over the years but it’s the personal impact each person has had on me as a person which inspired me to take part in this walk.

“Digby Brown understand that diagnosis of an asbestos related disease can be difficult for the sufferers and their families. The support provided by Asbestos Action is essential to these families and we are proud to be able to support such a worthy cause.”

Thursday 1 March 2018

MSP backs calls to improve care for asbestos sufferers

John Fearn & Claire Baker, MSP
John Fearn & Claire Baker, MSP

An MSP has thrown her support behind a brand new information booklet from support charity Asbestos Action to help improve care for asbestos sufferers.

Scottish Labour’s Claire Baker joined the campaign one year after her own father died from mesothelioma – a terminal lung cancer contracted through asbestos exposure.

She was joined by John Fearn and Dianne Foster from Asbestos Action, a number of individuals affected by the harmful substance and Euan Love, Partner for Digby Brown’s Industrial Disease department as they unveiled the new booklet outside the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Baker, MSP for Mid Scotland Fife, was inspired to get behind the new support tool after the support she and her family received from Asbestos Action.

Her father Jim Brennan was exposed to asbestos in the 1970s as a sheet metal worker – he died on February 25 last year aged 70 just 12 months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Ms Baker said: “As a politician I always thought I had a keen awareness of issues related to asbestos.

“But it wasn’t until my father passed that I truly understood it and understood the anger of thousands of Scots because of how avoidable these deaths are.

“Although we got the support my dad needed it was sometimes a struggle and I’ve witnessed a real postcode lottery when it comes to people receiving the medical or pastoral care they need and deserve.

“We need to see improvements to bridge these gaps but also to secure the support needed and educate the next generation of health and social workers to make them aware of the impacts on individuals and families because conditions linked to asbestos will continue for decades to come.”

Asbestos-related diseases occur when people breathe in asbestos fibre which can lead to benign conditions like pleural plaques where the lining of the lungs or ribcage calcify or terminal cancers like mesothelioma which can prove fatal just weeks after diagnosis.

Thousands were affected because employers, particularly in the construction industry, failed to provide workers with safety gear or breathing apparatus.

And to this day asbestos-related conditions claim around 3,000 lives in the UK every year – more than are killed on the roads.

The new booklet advises people on the different kinds of conditions asbestos exposure can lead to as well as outlining effective measures for sufferers to put in place to assist with their day-to-day life.

It also tells families how to support their loved ones and where they can find additional support – even pointing individuals in the right direction for the best medical or financial help.

John Fearn, manager of the not-for-profit Asbestos Action, thanked Claire for her support of the new help booklet.

He said: “Ms Baker might be a politician but she’s also a daughter who lost her dad to a devastating illness.

“The tragic thing is her experience is just one of thousands seen over the decades but we don’t expect the number of cases to drop or even plateau in the near future.

“That’s why we need health boards, councils and other relevant bodies to put the right measures in place now so those affected get the right support deserve from day one.”

Euan Love from Digby Brown Solicitors and Partner of the firm’s Industrial Disease department said: “Ms Baker’s support, not just as a politician but as an affected individual, highlights the gravity and scale of asbestos-related diseases.

“This new resource is another example of how Asbestos Action continually seeks out new ways to help those in need – it will hopefully prove to be a useful aid to potentially thousands of sufferers and their families.”

For more information on asbestos-related diseases please click here for our support booklet or call us on 01382 225715.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Asbestos Action highlight dangers of asbestos to Scottish MSPs

Asbestos Action were delighted to be invited by Scottish MSP Jenna Marra to have an information stand at the Scottish parliament for the week beginning 6th November 2017.

John Fearn, manager at Asbestos Action, attended with the aim to raise awareness about the charity amongst Scottish MSPs, along with highlighting the risks asbestos still pose today and to underline the issues victims of asbestos related lung cancer face when applying for State Benefits.

There are planned changes to parts of the benefits system, which once in place, may make it harder for asbestos disease suffers to access the benefits they are entitled to.

Euan Love and Mark Nicholson, both specialist lawyers in Asbestos Disease Compensation at Digby Brown, also came along to help us highlight these issues to members of the Scottish Government.

John Fearn, Asbestos Action, Iain Gray MSP and Mark Nicholson, Digby Brown
John Fearn, Asbestos Action, Iain Gray MSP and Mark Nicholson, Digby Brown

John Fearn, manager at Asbestos Action said: “It was a great opportunity to meet the MSPs a one to one basis and explain the current challenges the charity faces in terms of sufferers benefits, asbestos still in public buildings and the difficulties faced by the legal profession in obtaining justice for victims.

“Many thanks also to Euan and Mark from Digby Brown for their support on the stand and being available to explain the intricacies of the legal system to the MSPs.”

Friday 28 July 2017

Asbestos Action calls for removal of asbestos

Asbestos Action held a successful event in Dundee on Friday 21 July at Discovery Point. The event’s main aim was to highlight the hidden risk posed by asbestos in homes and workplaces.

30% increase in asbestos victims seeking support

The day was also the charity’s 15th Annual General Meeting. Asbestos Action have seen a 30% increase in demand for its services as the number of people being diagnosed with asbestos related disease continues to rise in Scotland. A keynote speaker at the event was Beth Robinson of Gowrie Contracts Ltd, a Dundee based firm who specialises in asbestos abatement, while representatives from the Princes Youth Trust presented a video designed to help raise awareness of the risk posed by asbestos to future generations.

Speaking at the event, John Fearn, General Manager of Asbestos Action, said:

“It is important for us to actively campaign to help raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure and its widespread presence in our houses, schools and workplaces.

“We need to see the safe, phased removal of asbestos from buildings where it is present, increased standards of health and safety, and better remedies for those affected by asbestos disease through no fault of their own.

“We will aim to hold them to account, to secure some justice for asbestos victims and their families.”

Friday 11 March 2016

Asbestos Action Conference 2016

Asbestos Action held a successful and well-attended conference in Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth at the end of February 2016.

The conference - ‘Asbestos in 2016: Today’s challenge’ - brought together individuals affected by asbestos related conditions and professionals working in the field. Among the speakers were Jephson Robb, designer of the International Asbestos Memorial in Clydebank, Dr Peter Reid, Dr Peter Reid, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Fraser Simpson, Head of Industrial Disease at Digby Brown Solicitors.

Roger Mullins MP (SNP – Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) gave a powerful keynote address, offering his support for Asbestos Action’s work and help in lobbying both the Scottish and UK governments on issues affecting asbestos victims and their families.

John Fearn speaking at Asbestos Action Conference 2016
John Fearn speaking at Asbestos Action Conference 2016


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