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Dying doctor warns of asbestos ‘hidden epidemic’ caused by NHS failures

A doctor and mother of two with just months left to live has warned of a “hidden epidemic” of asbestos-related cancers among NHS staff and patients because hospitals have failed to properly handle the toxic material.

Kate Richmond, 44, 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.

An investigation by The Independent has learnt there have been 13 prosecutions linked to NHS breaches of regulations for the handling of asbestos since 2010, while 381 compensation claims have been made by NHS staff for work-related diseases, including exposure to asbestos, since 2013, costing the health service more than £26m.

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 died from mesothelioma, the same asbestos-related cancer which is killing Kate Richmond.

She described how maintenance staff removed asbestos ceiling tiles with no protective measures, allowing dust and debris to fall on to wards where patients were in their beds and staff were working. Managers at the Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry failed to heed warnings by workers that they were putting people at risk.

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Source: The Independent, 9 February 2020


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