Specialist support comes in many forms for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma.  The following piece has been written by Mary Mulhall and Rachel Thomas of Hugh James.

The Role of the Specialist Asbestos Solicitor

When a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the response is often the same from the patient and their family. They have not heard of the condition and can struggle to pronounce the word Mesothelioma.  Their world is quickly turned upside down as they try to come to terms with the diagnosis.

Whilst this is a difficult time for the patient and family members, specialist asbestos solicitors have a wealth of experience in bringing mesothelioma claims against organisations and can assist the patient in the process whilst taking the weight of the legal claim in order to obtain a financial settlement.  Solicitors often come across the same companies that have been sued in the past and they hold the relevant insurance information to bring a claim directly against the insurer. Insurance companies are often pursued particularly when the company that exposed the person to asbestos is no longer trading and has not been for many years.

There is the benefit of having brought other cases against the same defendant and solicitors may at times hold supporting evidence that can be used in other cases. With the patient’s consent, HASAG’s panel solicitors can also share witness evidence from older cases to support a new patient’s case.

Specialist asbestos solicitors are experienced in the litigation process. This does not mean all cases will be taken to court, however it is important to move the case forward and to recognise when to take this step. It is not unusual for court proceedings to be issued and the case settled soon after. The vast majority of cases will never end in a court hearing

More often specialist asbestos solicitors are seeing younger patients who may have been exposed to low levels of asbestos exposure or may be unsure as to where they may have been exposed. Cases such as these may indicate exposure to asbestos at school or secondary exposure through a parent. As cases become more challenging, specialist asbestos solicitors in turn are more adept at responding to the arguments raised by the defendants.

The Role of the Mesothelioma Specialist Nurse

The role of the mesothelioma specialist nurse is a new addition within the setting of a law firm and one that has already proved to be of great value to patients and their relatives. Rachel Thomas has recently joined Hugh James as a mesothelioma nurse advisor and has 12 years’ experience working with mesothelioma patients. She has recently been appointed to the role of Trustee for HASAG.

The specialist nurse has in-depth knowledge and experience of caring for patients and their families who have been impacted by a mesothelioma diagnosis. The specialist nurse can visit patients in their own homes, and this enables patients to feel safe and leads on to conversations that in a busy clinic setting may not take place. Patients and their relatives can be given advice and information about the diagnosis itself and go through symptom management and advance care planning. Information can be given on local support groups and the value that being part of these groups can offer to patients and their relatives.

One of the most valuable aspects of the role is the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Mesothelioma CNS or Lung Cancer CNS that is the patient keyworker in the NHS setting and identify gaps where patients may need extra support or signposting to other expert services such as palliative care, district nurses, local GP and psychological support. This ensures that patients receive joined up care and support both in the primary care setting and secondary setting.

In the last few weeks one of the gaps identified is the need that patients have to discuss end of life care and help facilitate those conversations with families. Dr Mannix, a leading expert in palliative care calls these tender conversations, patients need time and a safe, quiet space for these conversations to unfold. Often in a busy clinic patients feel that they do not want to take up the time of the clinician or specialist nurse by discussing these topics and so many times things are left unsaid by patients and their families. The specialist nurse can help facilitate these conversations and then with the patients consent handover to the Lung Cancer/Mesothelioma specialist nurse at the hospital and local palliative are team what has been discussed including patients preferred place of care.

Another benefit of having a specialist nurse attached to a law firm is that they can assess patients care needs in the home setting and cost for future equipment and care needs. This helps the patients to consider what care they made need in the future and begin to make some plans for this and provides the solicitor in charge of their case with important insights into the impact of the mesothelioma diagnosis on the patient. With the deepening crisis nationally in the provision of social care some patients may find that services are very limited or there is a long waiting list to access equipment and assistance with personal care. Being able to plan future care with the help of specialist nurse can help patients and their relatives have a sense of security and peace of mind that when care is required, they have all the information they need to ensure their loved one has the right care at the right time.