Funding for Grenfell Health Screening Programme
The NHS will fund a £50 million health screening programme for survivors and first responders of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It follows warnings that they could have been exposed to asbestos, amongst other dangerous substances.
Senior Coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, wrote to the Head of NHS England, Mr Simon Stevens, in September urging him to take action to avoid further deaths from the tragedy. She cited the long-term health problems experienced by the fire fighters and first responders at the 9/11 attack and was concerned no formal health screening process was in place for our first responders and Grenfell Tower residents.
Grenfell Tower was built in 1974, when asbestos was in regular use as a fire retardant. If inhaled, asbestos can cause a range of asbestos-related diseases including a fatal lung disease called mesothelioma, which due to its long latency period can take between 10-50 years before any symptoms are experienced.
Together with local health groups, NHS England will invest up to £10 million a year in the service for the next five years. Former residents of Grenfell Tower will be invited for regular health MOT’s which will assess all of their health needs in one place, including the potential long term impacts of the fire.
Speaking at NHS Providers Conference in Manchester this week, Mr Stevens said “For those people who were affected by this horrendous tragedy, their pain is not over and many continue to face real difficulty.”
“NHS staff and the local community have been working hard from day one to support the Grenfell community. The NHS was there when people needed us and we’re determined to stay the course. That’s why we are now introducing a new dedicated service to ensure those affected continue to have their health needs fully met.”