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4 July 2024 | Comment | Article by Phoebe Osborne

Action Mesothelioma Day | East of England Asbestos Patient Support Group (EEA-PSG)

Phoebe Osborne, a specialist solicitor and Legal Director based in Cambridge, supports numerous victims of asbestos at Hugh James. In her voluntary role as Chair of the East of England Asbestos Patient Support Group (EEA-PSG) charity, she also assists many others living with asbestos-related diseases in the East of England region.

Action Mesothelioma Day, observed annually on the first Friday in July, is a significant event dedicated to remembering patients who have lost their lives to mesothelioma, a preventable asbestos-related cancer. This national event, led by Mesothelioma UK and allied patient support groups, aims to raise awareness, generate funds for medical research, and commemorate those who have succumbed to asbestos diseases.

Founded by Brian Wallis (former Mesothelioma UK Ambassador) in March 2021, the EEA-PSG charity provides crucial support for individuals affected by asbestos exposure, particularly in the East of England where mesothelioma diagnoses are prevalent.

During Phoebe’s dual roles she witnesses the devastation caused by industries such as shipbuilding in Lowestoft, rural exposure spanning Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, often involving sugar factories, asbestos clad factories and rural agricultural buildings, she regularly assists all trades who have worked in construction and sees many incidences of RAF / Armed Forces exposure. Given asbestos remains in situ in several of the region’s hospitals and schools the number of diagnoses has sadly not yet peaked, justifying the need for support groups. Additionally, retirees moving to the East of England from London/Essex and other parts of the country often face diagnoses during what should be a time of enjoyment.

The EEA-PSG offers free monthly support groups for patients, caregivers, family members, and friends affected by conditions like mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening, and pleural plaques. These social groups provide peer support, help reduce anxiety, emotional distress, while providing practical advice and guidance from specialists on clinical trials, breathlessness advice, chair exercises and wellbeing initiatives.

The charity welcomes patients and carers from across the region and holds monthly socials at Southgate Community Centre, Bury St Edmunds and Wells Community Hospital, Wells-next-the-Sea. Participation is not limited to Hugh James clients. Over the years the charity has supported many patients and carers, including those who may not have a civil legal claim, the bereaved and others who may have been assisted by other law firms to bring a civil legal claim.

The UK faces one of the highest asbestos-related death rates, with 2,500 annual fatalities from mesothelioma, a fatal lung disease caused by asbestos dust inhalation. Despite asbestos being banned in the UK only in 1999, many buildings still contain the dangerous material, which continues to release deadly fibres when disturbed. Recent years have seen increased claims from non-traditional sources, including school teachers and healthcare professionals.

It is important to note that direct work with asbestos is not necessary to be at risk of developing an asbestos disease. While most exposed individuals never suffer illness, those who do often develop symptoms 15 to 40+ years later, frequently receiving diagnoses during retirement or while supporting their families. The affected population now includes not only older individuals but those from less traditional careers such as construction workers, plumbers, and carpenters, and there is now an increased incidence of females, teachers, and hospital workers and those who may have been exposed to contaminated talc.

Given the potential widespread impact of asbestos disease, it is crucial for those diagnosed to seek peer support in their area and specialist legal advice promptly.  At Hugh James, Phoebe and her colleagues work diligently to secure in-lifetime settlements, cover private medical treatment costs, and provide peace of mind and financial security to their clients. They regularly obtain interim payments of £50,000 within weeks of instruction, enabling access to private medical treatments not always available through the NHS. While compensation cannot erase the illness, it helps clients manage medical appointments, plan for their future, and fulfil final wishes with less stress. In cases where mesothelioma is diagnosed posthumously, Hugh James offers guidance to settle claims based on witness evidence and investigation work, ensuring support even after death.

As a Mesothelioma UK and HASAG legal panel firm we signpost all patients to support groups in their area and we work with many of the established asbestos charities across the country including HASAG, SWASAG, BBAFS, AASC, MESSY, and East Midlands (Mesothelioma UK) and others as we recognise the importance of peer support for patient health, well-being and quality of life.

Author bio

Phoebe Osborne

Legal Director

Phoebe joined Hugh James in March 2021 and is a Legal Director in the specialist Asbestos team. Phoebe has acted solely for Claimants in asbestos disease litigation since qualifying as a solicitor in 2013. Since then, she has successfully obtained compensation for a significant number of patients following their diagnoses of mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural thickening and lung cancer.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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