Bronglais Hospital Asbestos Report ‘A Watershed Moment For NHS’

Asbestos Lawyers Call On Trusts To Learn Lessons From Review

22.01.2013

Calls for NHS Trusts to work closer with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure their asbestos management plans are robust, following a report into failings at the Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth, have been welcomed by legal experts at Irwin Mitchell.

An independent review by Dr Clive Grace has outlined how an asbestos survey in relation to the hospital was completed in 2005 but the results were not acted on appropriately, meaning some workers may have suffered unnecessary exposure to the deadly fibres.

The failings only came to light in 2009 when the newly-created Hywel Dda NHS Trust appointed a new estates management team. Subsequently, an investigation by the HSE highlighted a lack of asbestos governance which meant the arrangements in place were ineffective.

NHS Wales has accepted and had begun to implement changes as a result of the findings of the report, which states there were “weaknesses in systems, behaviours and judgements made”.

Dr Grace also urged that health boards not only agree intervention plans with the HSE but also respond to audits within an agreed timescale.

Alida Coates, a Partner and asbestos-related disease specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said it was vital all NHS Trusts learn lessons from the problems seen in this case. She represents both victims who have suffered health problems following exposure to the material, as well as the families of those who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma.

She outlined: “Time and time again we have seen scenarios when people have been exposed to asbestos through no fault of their own, but because employers have failed to act upon concerns or following official guidance in relation to the presence of the material.

“It is thought that up to 30 staff could have been exposed to asbestos at Bronglais Hospital, which is clearly a massive concern and something which could have been avoided.

“We hope this report can be a watershed moment in terms of encouraging NHS Trusts to ensure they are fully compliant in terms of their responsibilities regarding asbestos, particularly when it comes to the safety of staff, patients and other members of the public.

“Having seen the terrible consequences that exposure to asbestos can have on both victims and their loved ones, we would urge all NHS Trusts to simply not underestimate the importance of managing the material correctly and working with the HSE to ensure the safety standards are effectively implemented.”