John Blunt’s wife, Janet, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2013 and sadly died the following year. Janet was keen to leave a legacy that would help others and the couple agreed that any compensation received would be donated to Mesothelioma UK to fund a clinical nurse specialist in their local area.
Janet Blunt (née Leese) was a GP and had trained and worked at East Birmingham Hospital (now Heartlands Hospital Trust) between 1984 and 1988.
Following her diagnosis, received one month after their 25th wedding anniversary, John and Janet approached Irwin Mitchell solicitors to investigate the circumstances of Janet’s exposure to asbestos.
Janet recalled extensive building works being carried out around the hospital where she worked as a junior doctor. She particularly recalled plastic sheeting being put up when ceiling tiles were being taken down. The sheeting blew down in a storm and Janet remembers dust covering the doors and walls.
It became apparent that the ceiling tiles contained asbestos that was disturbed during the refurbishment works, allowing significant levels of asbestos dust to be released into the air. Janet was given no information about the presence of asbestos, its dangers, nor was she provided with any respiratory equipment to prevent her inhaling asbestos dust to which she was exposed.
Janet worked with Irwin Mitchell until she died in 2014 and John continued to work with them, looking for some accountability. It seemed very unfair to the family that Janet, who had spent her career as a GP helping people, should have been exposed to something so deadly during her time at the hospital.
The Heartlands Trust was issued with several Freedom of Information requests for documentation relating to the refurbishment works and always maintained a denial of any responsibility.
After a four-year long case, evidence finally came to light which confirmed the presence of asbestos in the refurbished areas. Just days before going to trial, the Trust admitted liability for causing Janet’s mesothelioma and offered a settlement which John accepted.
John says that there were many times over those four years when he came close to giving up on the case, having ‘hit a brick wall of silence’ during the legal action. Thanks to their perseverance and the work of Irwin Mitchell, the right result was eventually reached.
Alida Coates, Partner at Irwin Mitchell said: “Having spent a considerable time working with John and Janet’s family during the course of the case, on conclusion, John expressed his desire to help others diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is when I put him into contact with Mesothelioma UK to see how he could assist those diagnosed with mesothelioma in the Midlands.”
To ensure that Janet left a lasting legacy that would help others, John contacted Mesothelioma UK to look at how the settlement money could be put to best use.
Following Janet’s diagnosis, they both felt that the help and support they needed from the NHS wasn’t as available as it should have been. Despite great support from the West Midlands Asbestos Support Group, there was no mesothelioma specialist nurse at their local hospital.
John decided that he would like to help Mesothelioma UK to fund a clinical nurse specialist to cover the West Midlands area. Janet’s settlement will fund a post at one of the hospitals in the Birmingham area for two years, and Mesothelioma UK will fund it from then onwards. The charity has recently released a call for expressions of interest and are eager to let as many teams and NHS Trusts as possible, based in the region, aware of the opportunity.
John said: “Janet and I struggled to get the specialist help and support we needed locally so it was important to us both that Janet was able to leave a legacy that would help others in the West Midlands. Mesothelioma patients in the area will now have the support of a clinical nurse specialist which, I hope, will make a big difference to them.”
Liz Darlison, Head of Services at Mesothelioma UK added: “Mesothelioma UK is very grateful to Janet and John for their generous donation. The charity has been keen for some time to appoint a Mesothelioma Clinical Nurse Specialist in the West Midlands. There are some excellent clinical teams within the region and an established comprehensive benefits and financial support service is already provided by the Asbestos Support Central England; appointing a Mesothelioma Clinical Nurse Specialist within the area will complement this existing support and expertise.”