Fears coronavirus could mask miners' deaths caused by coal dust inhalation

MPs representing former coalfields communities have called for better support for the retired miners they represent.

Yorkshire Labour MPs Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) and John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne), led by Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East), all signed the letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, alongside 16 other Labour colleagues.

They said many retired miners suffer with underlying health conditions due to their jobs, making them particularly at risk from coronavirus, and many feared that if they were to die from Covid-19 their death certificates would not mention these conditions.

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The letter said: “Years of coal dust inhalation have left them with scarred and damaged lungs.”

Barnsley East MP Steph Peacock. Photo: JPI MediaBarnsley East MP Steph Peacock. Photo: JPI Media
Barnsley East MP Steph Peacock. Photo: JPI Media | jpimediaresell

It added: “Miners and their families deserve compensation for the years of ill health brought on by their work down the pits. In the event of a tragic death attributed to Covid-19, it is essential that underlying industrial disease is also recorded on their death certificate.

“Without it grieving families will be unable to get the justice and support they need.”

The MPs were concerned that due to legislation on the completion of death certificates being relaxed during the crisis, any deaths of miners related to industrial disease may not be referred to the coroner.

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Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, a result of coal dust inhalation, has caused an average of 130 deaths per year over the last decade. But this statistic only accounts for the number of cases that have been assessed as meeting the criteria for having the industrial disease.

It does not reveal the number of former miners who were turned away because they did not meet the requirements or those who did not make a claim while still alive.

The group called on Mr Hancock to outline his plans to protect miners, they said: “Miners and their families deserve justice.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘’We understand the concerns of former coal miners, and their families due to this pandemic, and the health of their loved ones.

‘’We are working hard to protect everyone’s health during this pandemic, especially those with pre-existing conditions.’

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