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Photo Dr Kate Richmond And Husband Brett 2004

Doctor thanks witnesses who came forward in asbestos appeal

A doctor who has only months to live after contracting an asbestos-related cancer has expressed her thanks to the witnesses who came forward following a media appeal for information in December 2018.

Posted on 10 February 2020

Witness evidence from the appeal led to a court hearing where a judge found that University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust had negligently exposed her to asbestos

Dr Kate Richmond, 44, who now lives in Australia with her husband and two small children aged eight and 11, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May 2018. 

Her story has been highlighted by The Independent newspaper and illustrates the wider issue of asbestos in NHS buildings.

Dr Richmond’s legal team, from law firm Leigh Day, established that she was exposed to asbestos during her time at Walsgrave Hospital, in Coventry, between 1998 and 2004, when she was a trainee doctor and after she qualified.

Leigh Day extensively researched asbestos in the hospital buildings and appealed in the media for witnesses which led to statements from over 20 former members of staff who provided evidence of asbestos being present at the hospital.

In particular, one former labourer at the trust came forward to describe how ceiling tiles, containing asbestos, were moved about and damaged from maintenance work and that no precautions were taken to prevent hospital staff being exposed to the deadly dust from the tiles and in the ceiling voids.

In a Facebook post, published after the verdict, in November 2019, Dr Richmond wrote:

“The judge determined Walsgrave Hospital/UHCW NHS trust was liable. In other words, they allowed me to be exposed to asbestos whilst working in the hospital. This exposure has caused my subsequent cancer… my family can relax knowing they will be provided for financially in my absence. 

“Obviously I’d rather be well, have no financial settlement and be around to see my children grow up instead of having money in the bank but it is at least some comfort. My legal team has been amazing, caring, compassionate, kind and persistent. I couldn’t have wished for better. I feel very lucky to have had such wonderful support.”

Dan Easton, head of the industrial diseases team at Leigh Day who represented Dr Richmond, said: 

“Kate was exposed to asbestos from ceiling tiles containing asbestos being moved about and from asbestos contamination in the ceiling voids.  We know there were other forms of asbestos elsewhere in the hospital and suspect that Kate was exposed in many other ways.

“The trust admitted that there was asbestos at the hospital but said they had proper procedures in place to prevent staff being exposed, however, we were successful in arguing that these precautions were insufficient because they failed to implement them properly.  

“The witness evidence that we were able to produce in court from former staff at the hospital who said that in practice, maintenance went on without precautions, was crucial to the success of the case.  It is terrible that many devoted NHS staff have been put at risk in this way when better precautions should have been taken years, if not decades, earlier.

“We would like to add our thanks to everyone who contacted us and enabled us to establish how Kate was exposed to asbestos.  This compensation is vital to help pay for Kate’s treatment and care, and so she can know her husband and her children will be financially secure in the future.”