New data offers update on MAGS study findings

Back in 2020, the Mesothelioma Patient Experience Research Group at the University of Sheffield launched the Healthcare Worker Mesothelioma Asbestos Guidance (MAGs) study.

The study interviewed patients who are, or were, healthcare workers including clinical staff such as doctors and nurses, and non-clinical staff, such as medical secretaries, cleaners, porters and maintenance staff. It aimed to explore the experiences of healthcare workers with mesothelioma and develop recommendations for increasing awareness of the risk to healthcare workers.

The MAGS study was funded by Mesothelioma UK, alongside donations from the family and friends of the late Dr Mags Portman.

Mags was a pioneering doctor in the treatment of HIV. She championed the use of a new, effective treatment for HIV and enabled many to get that treatment in the UK who would not otherwise have done so. In January 2017, she was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and continued to promote research into mesothelioma until she sadly passed away in 2019 at the age of 44.

Recommendations of MAGS report

The study final report highlighted a number of recommendations including the need to get a more accurate picture of the extent of mesothelioma amongst healthcare staff, that awareness of asbestos risk should be added to the mandatory training for new members of NHS staff, and that special consideration should be given to the communication of the diagnosis.

The final study can be viewed here

FoI requests find change in ONS data

Peter Allmark, Research Fellow at the Mesothelioma UK Research Centre in Sheffield has recently compiled new data from Freedom of Information requests to NHS Resolution and to the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), asking about the occupational breakdown of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) payments to people with mesothelioma and who worked in the NHS, and to educational professionals.

Peter explains the findings of this new data: “The Office of National Statistics (ONS) data on mesothelioma deaths in educational and health professionals is much lower than figures from the DWP and NHS Resolution. The DWP figures are probably nearest the truth as most people who get mesothelioma will get IIDB.

“However, they are collated under a different system to ONS which makes comparison difficult. But the contrast between the ONS and the others is so striking that it’s pretty clear that many school and hospital workers are developing mesothelioma and that they are not shown in ONS death rates. This undermines the suggestion made on the basis of ONS data that hospitals and schools are safe environments.

“Where ONS data is identifying 7.25 NHS health professionals and 23.1 education professionals per annum, our data is indicating figures ranging from 40 to 65 NHS workers and around 70 education professionals. Even these figures are probably on the low side.”

For more information on this new data and on data concerning education professionals, please contact


The table below summarises data from a number of sources. Column E has the ONS data on health professional deaths from mesothelioma, batched into ten-year sections. Columns B-D have data from NHS Resolution on claims taken by NHS staff against the NHS following their getting mesothelioma. The most recent is in column D and this is the most reliable – column B contains errors from the original reply. Column F has data from the DWP on IIS claims for mesothelioma in the grouping Human Health Activities. Note that this is rounded to the nearest ten. Note also that the grouping includes non-NHS staff. As such, the figure of 326 claims over 5 years for NHS staff is approximate.


  FOI 3992 [original] FOI 3992 – corrected FOI 5989 ONS data FOI2023/1900
Source NHS Resolution Office for National Statistics DWP
Grouping Number of claims received by NHS of former workers who have developed mesothelioma Health Professional – mesothelioma deaths IIS claims for diffuse mesothelioma in grouping, Human health activities
2004/5 38
2005/6 27
2006/7 29
2007/8 28
2008/9 47
2009/10 59
2010/11 63
2011/12 72 2001-10
2012/13 80 25
2013/14 176 80 80
2014/15 119 39 39
2015/16 114 31 30
2016/17 109 17 17
2017/18 120 32 32 80
2018/19 148 52 52 90
2019/20 27 100
2020/21     35 2011-20 100
2021/22 41 120 110
Original total 1229
Corrected total 694 over 15 years 251 over 6 years 353 over 9 years 145 over 20 years 480 over 5 years

68% » 326 NHS

Corrected annual rates 46.27 pa 41.83 pa 39.22 pa 7.25 pa 65.28 pa NHS




September 19, 2023

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