Unite claim that 20 workers at the world-famous cancer treatment centre in Withington were put at risk after managers failed to deal with the cancer causing material. The story has been highlighted recently in the Manchester Evening News.
The hospital has admitted that ‘historically’ it ‘may not have met the required health safety standards confined to non-patient maintenance areas’.
Managers confirmed that they had taken disciplinary action against some staff but refused to confirm how many or what actions were taken.
The hospital strenuously denies the union’s claim that medical staff, patients, and visitors were also put at risk.
Unite have highlighted a report by Asbestos Contracting Limited (ACL), a local authority approved remover of asbestos, from August this year which revealed the hospital’s trust has known about the presence of asbestos for more than 10 years.
Despite this, the trust continued to issue jobs to workers in areas of the hospital known to management to be contaminated, it is claimed.
Unite, representing the affected workers, raised concerns in a second report but allege no action was taken by the trust.
Unite claims the trust failed to inform employees and did not put any control measures in place to provide a safe working environment, although hospital managers deny this.
The trade union also accuses the hospital of failing to maintain an up-to-date asbestos register and monitor the condition of the asbestos on site.
Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “It is appalling that these workers have been exposed to the cancer causing substance, especially as they were exposed in the world-renowned cancer hospital.
“The knowledge that they may develop an asbestos-related disease from conducting their duties with trust and good faith has placed a huge burden of stress on the workers and their families.
“The stress is further compounded by the knowledge that they may have inadvertently contaminated patients and their own families with asbestos through the chronic negligence of the Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.”
‘No evidence patients, visitors or non-maintenance staff have been put at risk’
A spokeswoman said: “The Trust’s independent external advisers have confirmed that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that patients, visitors and non-maintenance staff have been put at risk.
“We have addressed all of the concerns that maintenance staff have raised with the exception of their demand for generous compensation on an ex-gracia basis.
“We have contacted the National Health Service Litigation Authority, which has advised that we cannot pay compensation to individuals where there is no evidence of recognised injury or ill-health.
“We are aware that a recent claim by a Christie employee was rejected by the National Health Service Litigation Authority on this basis.
“We acknowledge that historically the Trust may not have met the required health and safety standards confined to non-patient maintenance areas used by some of our estates staff. Over the last 18 months we have had independent, external advisers working with us to put this right.”
They added that the HSE accepts that the Trust has made good progress in improving health and safety within the estates and facilities department.
“We want to reassure patients, visitors and staff throughout The Christie that there is no reason to believe that anyone has been harmed by our historic management of asbestos in non-patient areas such as plant rooms and other maintenance areas.”
If you or a family member have been affected by asbestos please contact us today on 0800 294 3065 where we will be able to answer any questions that you may have.