THE FAMILY of a maintenance worker from Cleckheaton who developed a disabling lung condition after working with asbestos has received compensation from the NHS.

Jack Coleman worked as a plumber at Leeds General Infirmary from 1980 until 2004, where he repaired pipework in the hospital.

The legal team supporting Mr Coleman's family during the compensation case said the service tunnels that Mr Coleman worked in were poorly ventilated and contained pipes that were lagged with asbestos. He would manually remove the asbestos lagging to access the pipework, causing the asbestos to become airborne and settle on his skin and clothing.

In the 1980s when it happened, the hospital was run by a now-defunct organisation called the Leeds Western Health Authority whose successor organisation was the Department of Health.

A spokesman from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said he could not comment specifically on the compensation case because it was not the responsible authority in the 80s. However, the Trust did send its good wishes to Mr Coleman's family and said the money had come via the NHS.

During the first seven years of his employment, Mr Coleman was not provided with personal protective equipment or warned about the dangers of working with asbestos.

Mr Coleman started to suffer regularly from chest infections towards the end of his career, and he was rushed to hospital in 2010 as he was unable to breathe. He had an X-ray and doctors found that he had developed pleural thickening, which affects the lining of the lungs and can cause breathlessness.

Unite Legal Services and Thompsons Solicitors took up Mr Coleman's case, but he sadly died of a heart attack in December 2014 aged 72. However, his daughter Sam Scholey continued the claim on behalf of her mum and the family.

"My dad had been suffering from chest problems for years but he didn't think it was because of asbestos," said Sam. "Even after he retired he used to enjoy going to the gym or having weekends away with mum, so to see him suddenly deteriorate was horrible."

She added: "It had such an impact on his life, when he thought he was going to enjoy retirement. It changed how he enjoyed is retirement, for both him and my mum."

Karen Reay, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: "Asbestos-related conditions often take years to develop, and for a long time Jack didn’t attribute his chest problems to exposure earlier in his career. It wasn’t until he began struggling to breathe, which in turn led to his diagnosis, that he became aware of the debilitating effects of asbestos.

"Employers have a duty to ensure that their employees are protected from harm in the workplace, but unfortunately cases of asbestos disease are far too common. By the 1980s, the dangers of asbestos were well documented, which makes the circumstances of Jack’s exposure all the more avoidable."

Sam urged people in similar situations to never give up their fight, and added: "It is a shame my dad is not here to see the justification."

She added: "Even though dad passed away before the claim was settled, we have peace of mind knowing that he had been involved in instructing the investigations. He knew he had his union working to make sure someone was going to be held responsible for his condition."