Thomas Pritchard was a handyman at the hospital in Stoney Stanton Road, Hillfields, for around nine months during 1970-71 when he came into contact with the deadly substance.
A persistent and worsening cough saw the 71-year-old go to his doctor in November 2013. Medics drained four pints of fluid from his lungs and discovered he had mesothelioma, a terminal lung condition, associated with exposure to asbestos.
During the early 1970s, Mr Pritchard had spent a day working on the task of removing and replacing old asbestos-based insulation padding from a boiler and its pipes at the hospital. He then spent another day on the same duties in the pump room and also mixed powdered asbestos and water by hand, without any personal protective equipment such as a dust mask or gloves.
Mr Pritchard also spent several days walking the corridors and inspecting the asbestos-covered pipes for damage, possibly breathing in the deadly fibres even further. No other job throughout his life brought him into contact with asbestos.
On the recommendation of his doctor, he approached solicitors who investigated his work history to find exactly how he contracted the disease.
Having obtained his medical records, they sent a letter of claim to the hospital and the defendant in the case – the Secretary of State for the Department of Health – refused to make an interim payment until a medical report was available.
Instead, Mr Pritchard was awarded a £16,000 lump sum from the government and then Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, before a final damages amount was negotiated for £150,000.
The compensation will allow Mr Pritchard to move from his home in Londonderry to Gloucestershire to spend his remaining days among his family. His solicitors said:
“This is a tragic case in which our client was exposed to this deadly dust for only a very short period in the early 1970s, but has many years later developed mesothelioma.
It is a horrible disease which could have been prevented in this case, had my client’s former employers taken adequate precautions to prevent him inhaling the deadly dust.
“I am so glad, for his sake, that his claim was settled pretty quickly once the medical evidence was obtained.”
Latest figures from the Association of Personal injury Lawyers indicates that there were 2,538 mesothelioma deaths in the UK during 2013.
Much of the old hospital site has now been demolished and redeveloped. Figures also suggest that 80 out of every 100,000 people in the UK are affected, and that 85 per cent of cases are due to workplace exposure to asbestos.