Deadly miners' lung disease not picked up by scans, say union bosses
Deadly lung diseases are being missed by regular chest scans for ex-miners, union officials have said as they step up their campaign for greater health cover.
The Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) is pushing the Government to provide CT scans for former colliery workers after insisting that standard chest x-rays are failing to identify serious illnesses like pneumoconiosis.
For decades every former employee has been given free health checks, including chest x-rays, every three to four years to help identify any respiratory problems.
However, the UDM says x-rays are inadequate to highlight pneumoconiosis especially - known as miners’ lung disease - and state-of-the art CT scans are required.
Ian Gill, social insurance officer for the UDM, said: “We have had 18 to 20 men who have had chest x-rays that have not showed up pneumoconiosis, which has been diagnosed after they have been to their GP.
“There has been a feeling among the miners that the x-rays were never adequate.
“It can be that practices are often reluctant to refer people for whatever reason, usually cost. We want the Government to provide the scanning unit so everyone can be checked out.
“It will be a hard slog because it comes down to cash at the end of the day - we know that health budgets are stretched anyway.”
The campaign to persuade the Government to provide CT scans for former miners was launched in January.
Despite all the mines in the county now closed, the UDM says the fight will continue to ensure former workers still have the correct healthcare.
“We are trying to re-launch this it’s something for everybody, there’s no discrimination between unions.
“We just want to make sure that people know we are here and will given them help.”
Earlier this year UDM president Jeff Wood accused UK Coal of failing the workers and not introducing CT scans before the company went bust and closed its last remaining pits, including Thoresby.
Pneumoconiosis is a long-term and irreversible disease characterised by scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue.
There are often many years between exposure to coal dust and the onset of the disease.
The symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing and a tight chest that will not go away.
Depending on the severity, it can prove fatal.
However, if caught early, sufferers can make lifestyle alterations to help them prepare for the illness, such as losing weight.
The UDM is calling on its members who are suffering breathing problems to contact them so they can provide assistance with making applications to the DWP.
This covers all industrial lung diseases, including silicosis, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, diffuse mesothelioma and occupational asthma.
Contact Ian Gill on 01623 541408 from 9am to 1pm Monday to Friday.