Search on for former Aylsham hospital workers

Richard BatsonPeople who worked at a Norfolk hospital more than 40 years are being sought by the family of a retired nurse who died from an asbestos-related cancer.Betty Farrow was 79 when she died in June 2008 from mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which often takes 40 years to develop.Richard Batson

People who worked at a Norfolk hospital more than 40 years are being sought by the family of a retired nurse who died from an asbestos-related cancer.

Betty Farrow was 79 when she died in June 2008 from mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which often takes 40 years to develop.

She worked as an auxiliary nurse at St Michael's Hospital in Aylsham from 1967 until 1970, where her late husband Joe was also a boilerman.

It is possible both were exposed to asbestos in their work, and her family is trying to find Betty's former workmates who might have evidence of asbestos at the hospital - in case a compensation claim can be made.


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A specialist lawyer who has several similar cases on his books said two other nurses who suffered the disease as a result of working at the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital had received six figure payouts - so a link between Mrs Farrow's condition and her work was possible.

Mrs Farrow's daughter, Sue Empson, said: 'No amount of money can ever bring my mother back to us, but we want to get to the bottom of where she was exposed to asbestos. Without witnesses this will be almost impossible.'

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Her daughter Sue Empson said : 'No amount of money can ever bring my mother back to us, but we want to get to the bottom of where she was exposded to asbestBetty's surname was Ferguson when she worked at Aylsham before she and her late husband Joe ran pubs - the Maid's Head at Hindolveston and the Hevingham Fox - and brought up their four children at Felmingham near North Walsham.

In later life she lived at Aylsham and was 'so fit and out and about every day' until she was taken ill in December 2007 and early in the New Year give just three to six months to live after being diagnosed with her incurable condition.

An inquest showed the cause of death was mesothelioma, and that she also had scarring of the lung lining which only develops as a result of exposure to asbestos.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell is investigating Mrs Farrow's case on behalf of her family, and believes Mrs Farrow she was exposed to asbestos whilst working at St Michael's.

Industrial disease specialist David Cass said: 'It is clear that Mrs Farrow was significantly exposed to asbestos at some point in her life.'

It was also possible she had contact with asbestos dust and fibres from her husband's clothing, through his boiler room work.

Mr Cass said he had a dozen ongoing similar cases in Norfolk. Some involved people who worked in local hospitals, schools, and factories. Others featured pensioners who had retired to the area.

There had been successful claims such as former nurses Diane Coote from Lakenham and Mary Artherton from Poringland who contracted the cancer at Norwich Hospitals, and whose cases were featured in the Dust of Death campaign run by the EDP's sister paper the Evening News.

They were exposed to asbestos when passing lagged pipes in the hospital basement on the way to the canteen, and from sweeping the wards.

No claim had yet been made against the authority currently in charge of Aylsham hospital, but it could be if evidence was forthcoming. Although it did not run the unit at the time there was 'historical responsibility' which passed to NHS Norfolk.

The health authority's head of estates, Keith Jarvis, said: 'Formal inspections are carried out on identified asbestos areas on a regular basis. While there is some asbestos in a number of NHS buildings in Norfolk, it remains at a safe level, as determined by independent risk assessments.'

It also regularly checked the condition of any asbestos to ensure that it did not pose a risk to staff or the public.

'NHS Norfolk is confident that the processes we have in place to manage asbestos meets all of the necessary regulations on the control and management of asbestos.'

Anyone who worked at the Aylsham hospital between 1967-70 and can remember the presence of asbestos is asked to contact David Cass on 0114 274 4559 or at david.cass@irwinmitchell.com

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