Pleural plaque sufferers battle the Government

Government lawyers are considering whether to restore compensation rights to sufferers of pleural plaque – a scarring of the lung, mainly caused by exposure to asbestos.
Sufferers, including many in Wales, used to receive compensation – but that was stopped in October 2007 when the Law Lords rejected an appeal against an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal in January 2006. The 2006 appeal was brought by Norwich Union and Zurich Financial Services.
The Law Lords’ decision brought to an end a 20-year right to claim compensation of between £6,000 and £10,000.
But sufferers refused to take the decision lying down. They launched a campaign to get the decision overruled and, in July 2008, the Government announced a year-long consultation on whether to award sufferers of pleural plaques around £5,000 in damages.
The Ministry of Justice promised to publish the results of the consultation by July 21, 2009.
But Justice Secretary Jack Straw then announced instead that a decision would not be made until after the summer recess.
Now Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn (Labour) believes the Government might be getting cold feet about the costs of restoring compensation.
He told the House of Commons this week: “For over 20 years, the courts recognised that this was a compensatable illness. Everyone accepted that, and the insurers and the Government put money aside, until this dreadful decision by the Law Lords. One of the sorriest aspects of the case was that the Law Lords agreed with the lawyers who said that pleural plaques did not constitute a compensatable injury and did not cause any sort of depression or illness.”
Mr Hepburn noted that it is “estimated that pleural plaques sufferers are 1,000 times more likely than any other section of society to develop a more serious form of asbestos-related cancer”.
A recent report by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council said that up to 90,000 people a year may develop pleural plaques, up to 20 years after coming into contact with asbestos.

What price the McKinsey report?

The NHS in Wales is to come under the scrutiny of management consultants McKinsey and Co, it was revealed today.
This is the same company which early this year was employed by the UK government to find out what changes could be made to the NHS in England.
McKinsey and Co recommended slashing 137,000 jobs in England – a suggestion that was then rejected out-right by the UK Health Minister Mike O’Brien.
WAG stresses that the terms of reference agreed with McKinsey and Co “states that there will be no compulsory redundancies.”
The health union Unison today said WAG’s deal with McKinsey and Co – which has been asked to develop a five-year “strategic plan” for the Welsh NHS – is a complete waste of money.
But how much money will be spent on the consultants exactly?
When the English NHS report turned out to be useless, the UK government refused to say how much it had paid the firm.
“It was part of existing work that McKinsey was doing for the department,” a Department of Health spokesman said at the time. “There isn’t a breakdown of the individual cost of the report.”
Will the Welsh Assembly Government be more forthcoming?
Er, no.
While it expects “the cost of hiring McKinsey to be outweighed by the efficiency gains we will realise over the next five years”, it won’t say how much it is costing.
“Due to commercial sensitivity, we are unable to provide details of the value of the contract,” a WAG spokesperson told me.

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