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Additional training to help doctors diagnose asbestos-related diseases

It can be particularly challenging for the medical profession when it comes to diagnosing asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma. Unfortunately, due to the characteristic long latency period, many patients only visit their GP once the illness is at an advanced stage.

This can result in a referral that’s too late to significantly alter the course of their illness, and brings with it severely limited options for the medical profession. Helping victims to manage their pain is sometimes the only outcome, but a new training module written specifically for GPs may bring hope to some seriously ill patients.

Asbestos training has long been available for people in the construction and related industries but we believe this is the first targeted specifically at the medical profession.

Clydesdale Action on Asbestos campaign group

Specific training for GPs has been developed by Clydesdale Action on Asbestos (CAA), with assistance from the Procurator Fiscal’s office and the National Advisory Group. The initiative could enable doctors and practice staff to act faster in facilitating diagnosis and effective treatment.

Scotland has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related illness in the world due to its prolific use in the shipbuilding industry during the 1950s. This, and the widespread utilisation of asbestos in the engineering and construction industries, has left a terrible legacy for Scottish workers and their families.

Support from the government

The extra training provides more detail of what GPs should consider when making their diagnosis, and has been supported by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

At a meeting with members of CAA, she said:

“This is an important issue for the people of Scotland, and I entirely agree that we have to make sure that there is information and support available for not only those who are living with an asbestos related disease, but also for our GPs.”

What does the additional asbestos training include?

The asbestos training module for general release to GPs includes:

  • Taking into account the potential for occupational exposure to asbestos, and the long latency period characteristic of these diseases
  • Spotting the signs and symptoms of asbestos-related disease in conjunction with the above
  • The people most at risk of contracting asbestos illnesses
  • The correct referral protocols for doctors
  • How asbestos victims can potentially claim compensation against their former/current employer, and the role of doctors in helping to facilitate such a claim
  • Understanding the requirements of the Procurator Fiscal when reporting asbestos-related death
  • Providing guidance on statutory time limits for civil and personal injury compensation claims, and the possibility of litigation if they fail to notify the Procurator Fiscal of a potential death from industrial disease

Senior welfare rights officer at Clydesdale Action on Asbestos, Phyllis Craig, explained the overall benefits of the training for GPs and their patients:

“It is important for our victims, that family GP’ are able to identify early symptoms of an asbestos illness, in order that a referral to a specialist can be made. This resource will allow doctors a better understanding of the emotional, legal and financial strains that victims and their families encounter.”