Disappointment and frustration were just a few of the widespread reactions to the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS), which was introduced by the Government in July 2014. Many asbestos victim support groups joined in with a number of MPs, solicitors and asbestosis lawyers to broadly welcome the scheme designed to provide faster financial help to those with mesothelioma while at the same time expressing their concern over the exclusion of the many men and women suffering with other asbestos-related diseases.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) have backed a call for the Government to extend the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments Scheme. In a letter written to regional newspapers the President of the APIL, Jonathan Wheeler, urges the government to make ‘a positive change’ by, “…extending the scheme to help those workers who find themselves in a horrifying situation because their employer failed to protect them…”

Patients can quickly pass away before a claim can be finally resolved

In an over whelming number of cases, mesothelioma patients can quickly pass away before a claim can be finally resolved. Survival rates following a confirmed diagnosis are, on average, between 2 and 12 months. In some instances, a dispute can be prolonged as former employers / and or insurers dispute whether an insurance policy was in place at the time of the original exposure as well as the extent of employer liability. There is often a substantial financial burden to be faced by the spouse and immediate family in trying to cover for treatment and care in the final months. Victims are also concerned to see the future financial security of wives and loved ones put into place in the time remaining.

It’s not the first time that the limitations of the scheme have been criticised for excluding so many other victims who live with asbestosis diseases as a result of exposure to the harmful fibres. Immediately after the Mesothelioma Bill was passed by parliament in January 2014, a furious row erupted over the severe limitations, which had been imposed as conditions to help speed the Bill through the Commons.

Excluded from eligibility to apply

The DMPS was brought in with the aim of helping around 3,500 mesothelioma sufferers who every year face difficulties in making progress with a mesothelioma claim because they are unable to trace their original employer or insurer. However, the scheme only allows victims who were diagnosed with mesothelioma after 25th July 2012 to be eligible to apply. A further barrier is imposed on all victims diagnosed with other asbestos-related diseases, such as pleural plaques, who are also excluded from eligibility to apply for the scheme.

During the first six months, the scheme received just over 230 applications and made more than 130 payments of around £126,000 each. And it wasn’t until February 2015 that compensation was eventually increased from 80 per cent to 100 per cent of average claims following a long battle to obtain exemption for mesothelioma suffers. Under the Legal Aid Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2013 (LASPOA), mesothelioma victims would have been forced to pay the success fee when they win their case.

Estimated mesothelioma rate revised up

Despite malignant pleural mesothelioma accounting for just 1 per cent of all cancers, the increase by more than 50 per cent of 8,000 cancer deaths believed to be related to asbestos exposure continues the pattern caused by occupational cancer in England and Wales, each year.

The mesothelioma fatality rate of around 2,120 each year in the UK is now expected to continue for at least another twenty five years, according to the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP). Latest figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have also revised up the estimated death rate caused by asbestos-related diseases, from 4,000 to 5,000 deaths each year.

During a recent parliamentary question time, a renewed warning was made over high death rates continuing until at least 2037. Based on current projections, it was suggested that there could be between 49,000 to 58,000 deaths, and a potential total of 125,000 deaths from all diseases caused by exposure to asbestos.

Demands an urgent response

The incidence of women who fall victim to “secondary” or “environmental” exposure is also on the rise – up by nearly 14 per cent in 2012. It is now estimated that the total number of deaths from all diseases caused by asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer, could now be over 110,000.

The rising numbers of all those diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in the UK demands an urgent response from the government to extend DMPS. Created as the “fund of last resort”, in its current form the scheme clearly fails to do just that for thousands of excluded sufferers.