The single biggest hope for saving the lives of more than two thousand lives lost to mesothelioma each year in the UK is to sustain the necessary funding desperately needed to find a cure for the fatal cancer. A bill just introduced to the House of Commons, which proposes a contribution for research from around 150 insurance firms, obtained overwhelming support.

The Mesothelioma (Amendment) Bill was put forward by Mike Kane, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East who told the house that “relatively little” is spent on research into mesothlioma “when compared with other cancers” of a similar fatality rate, adding that voluntary funding was unable to make up the shortfall.

Disappointment has continued to grow

Ever since July 2014, when the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) was brought in to help around 3,500 mesothelioma sufferers who every year are unable to trace their original employer or insurer, anger and disappointment has continued to grow over the limitations agreed with the insurers. The scheme will only make 80 per cent payments and only allows victims who were diagnosed with mesothelioma after 25th July 2012 to be eligible to apply. All other victims diagnosed with asbestosis disease, such as pleural plaques, are excluded.

In December 2014, a proposed 3 per cent levy on employer’s liability insurance providers was reduced by the government to 2.2 per cent for 2015, calculated to save insurers £11.6 million. The government claimed that the decision was the result of the low volume of applications to the payment scheme, which may not be that unexpected given the restrictions on eligibility.

Harming the need to sustain crucial funding

Coincidentally, it was also not until the last month of 2014 that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) finally announced it would “not be making any changes to the law around no-win no-fee deals involving mesothelioma cases at this time.” In other words, mesothelioma sufferers would be exempt from paying the legal fee in a successful case, which the MoJ had thought to impose under LASPOA legislation.

Nevertheless, during the first six months, the scheme had received just over 230 applications and made more than 130 payments of around £126,000 each. It has been repeatedly pointed out that the reduced 80 per cent payout and July 2012 cut off date – the terms agreed by parliament to speed through DMPS last year – meant that the insurers had already made a significant saving. The reduction in the research levy insurers are required to pay, which calculates the projected requirement based on a previous period of take up figures for DMPS, can only be seen as seriously harming the need to sustain crucial funding to find a cure for the fatal cancer.

Still no answer to prevent mesothelioma

Clinical research teams in Britain and around the world continue their search for effective asbestosis treatments, which are hoped will extend life-expectancy, and improve care and wellbeing for the patient in the time remaining.

However, gains have only ever been modest and there is still no answer to fully prevent the onset of mesothlioma, which can take between 15 to 50 years before asbestosis symptoms appear from the period of first exposure. Victims of asbestos exposure confirmed with advanced stage mesothelioma almost always receive a poor prognosis and are expected to not live beyond 2 – 12 months.

Thirty years after the first asbestos ban was introduced the fatal cancer of the lung linings is still claiming lives in the UK. Mesothelioma mortality has risen by more than 10 per cent in the UK, up from 2,291 deaths in 2011 to 2,535 in 2012, according to the latest available figures from the Health and Safety Executive.