Suffolk now has its first support group for people suffering the effects of exposure to asbestos.
The inaugural meeting of the Suffolk Mesothelioma (asbestosis) Patient Support Group was held at Bury St Edmunds’ Farmers’ Club on Thursday, backed by council leaders and representatives of Parliament.
The group is sponsored by the Bury’s Ashtons Legal, which has represented many asbestosis sufferers’ claims for compensation, which it is possible to get in many cases via a fast-tracked legal system.
Mesothelioma UK ambassador Brian Wallis, from Southend, told the meeting that when his wife Rosemary died of asbestosis in 2013 the nearest support group was at Papworth Hospital in Huntingdon.
“Our ability to attend this group was prohibited by a 170 mile round trip,” he said. “Rosemary found relaxing in a recliner hard enough – five hours in a car was impossible.”
That was why they have chosen a location that allows journey times limited to about an hour for the area covered. They are also starting groups in Norwich and Essex.
Meetings will be monthly and Ashtons will host the next at its Kempson Way offices on May 17 from 11am to 3pm.
Mr Wallis told the meeting that Rosemary’s last words were: “For as long as you are able, continue to help people like me.”
After the meeting he explained why he felt there was such a need for support groups in East Anglia.
“Based on 2014 statistics, we say there are probably in East Anglia approximately 150 to 200 people who have been diagnosed, but 67 per cent would’ve worked for the military, either in uniform or as contractors,” he said. He is ex-RAF himself.
“This area had one of the highest concentrations of military establishments in the country.”
Asbestos was widely used as a fire-proof form of lagging for pipework in ships and military buildings, as well as a construction material.
Mr Wallis said the potential dangers of asbestos have been known for a century but it was not until the 1930s that the first case was proved in court, and then World War Two interrupted the search for safer alternatives.
For more information on the support group email Mr Wallis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mary Porch at Ashtons Legal on 01284 762331. For Mesothelioma UK see www.mesothelioma.uk.com