Asbestos in UK Buildings a “National Scandal”
Asbestos in UK Buildings a “National Scandal”
July 27, 2023

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has described asbestos in the UK’s buildings as a “national scandal” and backed calls for serving Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “address this crisis head on”.

Writing in the Sunday Times on 16 July, Hancock revealed that he was “deeply concerned about the asbestos in our buildings, particularly hospitals and schools” and used his column to show his support for the newspaper’s campaign that calls on the government to introduce a proactive, phased removal of asbestos.

Despite the health risks of asbestos exposure being highlighted in the mid-1900s, it took until 1999 for it to be banned in the UK. However, even today, the “toxic substance” is still found in four out of five schools in the country, a statistic Hancock describes as “terrifying”.

In his article, Hancock cited two particular examples of the “slow-burn crisis” caused by asbestos exposure. These included the case of Chris Willis, a 29-year-old PE teacher, who was given a prognosis of just one year to live after being exposed to asbestos as a schoolboy.

He also refers to the case of Gina Lees, a teacher who died from mesothelioma at the age of 51 after unwittingly exposing herself and her pupils to asbestos while pinning their artwork to a classroom ceiling.

Hancock said that such cases are a “stark reminder of the estimated 10,000 lives lost over the past four decades by those exposed to asbestos as pupils, teachers and other staff” and highlight the “devastating consequences of even the smallest actions in the presence of asbestos”.

The former Health Secretary, together with former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, and Alan Johnson, the former Labour health and education secretary, have backed calls for the government to begin the process of asbestos removal from the UK’s buildings.

There are still 21,500 schools open today with asbestos, while 90 percent of Britain’s 1,200 hospitals also contain it.

“There is no justification for any further delay in asbestos removal,” said Hancock. “We must address this crisis head-on and prioritise prevention as the key strategy for safeguarding public health.

“We need to make this investment count by using it to remove the scourge of asbestos once and for all. It’s time to consign asbestos to the history books.”

Asbestos-related diseases currently kill more than 5,000 people a year in the UK.

Solicitor for Asbestos Disease

Asbestos-related diseases, including asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma, often do not present until decades after exposure. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, seeking the appropriate advice and guidance is essential.

At Bridge McFarland LLP, we will do all that we can to ensure you obtain the support and compensation you deserve. To speak to one of our specialist solicitors about your claim today, please call 0800 987 8800 or email

For further information, you can visit our dedicated Asbestos Awareness website for detailed information about asbestos-related disease and helpful advice.

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