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NHS staff uninformed about asbestos-related risk in workplaces, charity says

Study recommends mesothelioma awareness be added to mandatory staff training
Picture shows a warning sign at the entrance of building undergoing asbestos removal

Study recommends mesothelioma awareness be added to mandatory staff training

Nurses should be made aware of the risk of developing the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma from working in NHS buildings, a charity says.

A study by the charity Mesothelioma UK examined the experiences, treatment and care of healthcare staff diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer that mainly affects the lining of the lungs.

Underestimation of how many healthcare staff have developed mesothelioma

It found there had been 961 claims against the NHS for negligence regarding asbestos that resulted in mesothelioma from 2004-17, of which 553 were successful.

University of Sheffield professor of older people and care Angela Tod said the study indicates an underestimation of the numbers of people who have developed mesothelioma

Study recommends mesothelioma awareness be added to mandatory staff training

Picture shows a warning sign at the entrance of building undergoing asbestos removal
Picture: iStock

Nurses should be made aware of the risk of developing the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma from working in NHS buildings, a charity says.  

A study by the charity Mesothelioma UK examined the experiences, treatment and care of healthcare staff diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer that mainly affects the lining of the lungs.

Underestimation of how many healthcare staff have developed mesothelioma

It found there had been 961 claims against the NHS for negligence regarding asbestos that resulted in mesothelioma from 2004-17, of which 553 were successful.

University of Sheffield professor of older people and care Angela Tod said the study indicates an underestimation of the numbers of people who have developed mesothelioma after working in health-related roles.

Professor Tod said she hopes the study will inform future action to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure.

According to the NHS, more than 2,600 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says there were 177 deaths of NHS staff due to mesothelioma between 2002 and 2015.

Lack of staff training in asbestos risk in workplaces

Mesothelioma UK argues that claims against the NHS would be higher if staff had enough evidence to make and pursue them.

It interviewed seven healthcare staff who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, including three nurses. Of the seven, three had their cases settled, another case had been ongoing for three years, one was unsure whether to proceed with legal action and the other two did not proceed on advice from their solicitors.

All those interviewed said they had not received formal training for asbestos risk in their workplace, even when demolition work had taken place and other staff were wearing safety gear.

The study recommended that information on asbestos risk be made part of the induction package for new healthcare staff and also given to staff who leave or retire.

Recommendations from the study also include:

  • The need to get a more accurate picture of the extent of mesothelioma among healthcare staff.
  • Regular testing of sites for asbestos.
  • Track and remove asbestos when it is found.

NHS England has been contacted for a response.


Find out more

Healthcare Staff Mesothelioma Asbestos Guidance Study


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