28/02/2005

'Fast-track' process announced for miners compensation

A new fast-track compensation process for miners suffering from lung damage has been announced by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Miners who opt for the new process, which is based on a breathing test to assess the effect of coal dust on lung function, will be entitled to up to £12,900 in compensation. Compensation in the fast-track scheme will range from £1,400 to £12,900 depending on the level of damage to the lungs. The offer made will be based on the average actual payments made to date, rounded to the nearest £100. Miners can also opt for a full medical assessment.

Miners have received average payments of £7,800 – a total of £1.3 billion – under the present scheme, which involves a full medical assessment. More than 780,000 applications have been received under the respiratory disease and second Vibration White Finger scheme and so far, £2.4 billion has been paid to over 410,000 miners, under the two schemes.

The DTI said that the fast-track arrangements have been designed to help miners suffering minor lung damage – those with more serious conditions would still receive a full medical assessment.

The DTI also said that the fast-track scheme would give respiratory medical consultants time to concentrate on more serious cases. Currently, around one third of available respiratory medical consultants (around 220) are employed by the DTI to carry out assessments.

Nigel Griffiths, the DTI Minister responsible for the government's Coal Health Compensation Scheme, said: "We are already paying out £2 million a day in compensation and this fast-track procedure gives up to 100,000 miners whose lungs suffered less damage the opportunity to receive a far quicker payment by avoiding the wait for a more extensive medical assessment. Each miner should decide, in consultation with their solicitor or advisor, whether the fast-track option is best for them. As well as the 100,000 miners who can opt into this scheme, there are 60,000 widows and families who will be eligible for the fast-track scheme from June, based on the late miner's death certificate."

The DTI has recommended that claimants should contact their solicitor or union for more information on the fast-track scheme.

(KMcA/SP)

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