The family of a nurse who died from asbestos related cancer has received £150,000 compensation. 

UNISON member Christina Bolas from Ponteland in Northumberland was only 64 when she died tragically from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, in August 2008 just over a year after she first became ill.

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and there is no cure for the disease.

The intensive care nurse at the RVI Hospital in Newcastle was exposed to asbestos when she worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Exposed to asbestos working in hospital

Mrs Bolas, who left behind two children and four grandchildren, started working at the hospital as a trainee when she was 18 in 1962. Once qualified she continued working there as a nurse until 1968. She returned to work at the hospital between 1971 and 1986. 

She later moved from the Midlands to the North East with her husband Keith and their two children to work at the RVI.

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital she often used an underground corridor to access the mortuary and laboratories. The corridor contained heating pipes which were covered with asbestos. 

At the time she had no idea about the risks of asbestos disease.

When she was diagnosed with mesothelioma she contacted her union, UNISON, which instructed specialist lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to advise about compensation.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Thompsons pursued a claim which was concluded successfully in an out of court of court settlement.

Her husband Keith, who pursued the claim after her death, said: “As a nurse Christina knew how precious life is and cared about people’s suffering. She felt strongly that it was important to claim compensation. She had no idea that the dust in that hospital corridor would cause her so much suffering and lead to her death so many years later.”

“She wanted to make sure her grandchildren received a good education and the money will now help them to go to university.”

He added: “Hundreds of nurses, doctors and other hospital staff must have used those corridors and there must have been other corridors like it in hospitals all over the country. I fear there will be more innocent victims like my wife who are diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos in public buildings.”

Employers failed to protect workers from asbestos

Clare Williams, regional chair of public service union UNISON, said: ”UNISION takes the health and safety issue of asbestos in public buildings very seriously. No amount of compensation can make up for Mrs Bolas’ suffering and loss of life. She loved her work but ultimately it was her employers who failed to protect her from exposure to asbestos and could have avoided her unnecessary and untimely death.”

Ian McFall from Thompsons Solicitors in Newcastle said: “Mesothelioma is usually associated with heavy industry but as this tragic case shows asbestos was used extensively in public buildings including hospitals and schools. The number of people suffering from mesothelioma will continue to rise until 2015. There will be more cases arising from asbestos exposure in public service employment. The recent Supreme Court decision confirms that employers and other public bodies will be liable to pay compensation for mesothelioma if their negligence increased the risk of contracting the disease.”