MSP makes personal appeal to improve care for asbestos sufferers

John Fearn and MSP Claire Baker.
John Fearn and MSP Claire Baker.

A Fife MSP has backed calls to improve care for asbestos sufferers – one year after her own father died from exposure to the substance.

MSP Claire Baker joined campaigners from Asbestos Action outside Hollyrood on Tuesday.

Her appeal came just over a year since the death of her father, Jim Brennan, who died from a fatal lung cancer called mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos as a sheet metal worker in the 1970s.

Jim (70) died just 12 months after his diagnosis.

She said: “As a politician I always thought I had a keen awareness of issues related to asbestos.

“But it wasn’t until my father passed that I truly understood it and understood the anger of thousands of Scots because of how avoidable these deaths are.

“Although we got the support my dad needed it was sometimes a struggle and I’ve witnessed a real postcode lottery when it comes to people receiving the medical or pastoral care they need and deserve.

“We need to see improvements to bridge these gaps but also to secure the support needed and educate the next generation of health and social workers to make them aware of the impacts on individuals and families because conditions linked to asbestos will continue for decades to come.”

Asbestos-related diseases occur when people breathe in asbestos fibre, which can lead to benign conditions like pleural plaques where the lining of the lungs or ribcage calcify or terminal cancers like mesothelioma which can prove fatal just weeks after diagnosis.

Asbestos-related diseases claim around 3000 lives each year in the UK.

John Fearn, manager of the not-for-profit Asbestos Action, highlighted a new support booklet for those affected by the conditions.

He said: “Ms Baker might be a politician but she’s also a daughter who lost her dad to a devastating illness.

“The tragic thing is her experience is just one of thousands seen over the decades but we don’t expect the number of cases to drop or even plateau in the near future.

“That’s why we need health boards, councils and other relevant bodies to put the right measures in place now so those affected get the right support deserve from day one.”

For more information on asbestos-related diseases and access to the new support booklet visit www.asbestosaction.org.uk or call 01382 225715.