28 June 2018 Minister promises review of Dupuytren’s Contracture ‘miners claw’ ruling
The long running campaign to have the debilitating Dupuytren’s Contracture industrial disease recognised reached an important milestone this week with a senior government minister promising to unblock the process.
Dupuytren’s Contracture is the first industrial disease since 1947 not to be brought on to the statute books following an IIAC recommendation.
The NUM and Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) have been campaigning since 2014 for the government to accept the IIAC recommendation and allow this disease to be prescribed as an Industrial Disease thus allowing miners who suffer from the condition to make a claim for benefit.
The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IACC) is the independent body that recommends which industrial diseases be added to an official list.
Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton MP met with County Durham MP’s and Durham Miners’ Association representatives to try to find a solution to the delay.
Sarah Newton MP promised that Chief Medical Officer, Professor Gina Radford, would review the evidence and report back within the next few months.
Alan Cummings, NUM NEC Member and DMA secretary, said: “It is a disgrace that miners, and other workers, have had to wait so long for this matter to be resolved. We now think there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
“We would expect an answer to this long running issue sometime in the early autumn. We will be holding the minister to her word.”
Also, at the meeting were Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods and North Durham MP Laura Pidcock. Laura Pidcock MP said: “This is a dreadful condition which we now know is caused, in part, by industrial work. It is time the government took action.”
Roberta Blackman-Woods MP said “We organised a big lobby of MP’s to support taking this action forward and we would expect to see results. This is an incurable condition which affects many people, particularly miners, and we need to see justice being done.”
Extract from Minutes of the IIAC Meeting – 11 January 20184.
4.1 IIAC published its command paper on Dupuytren’s contracture on 8 May 2014.
4.2 Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, wrote to IIAC via the Chair on 30 November 2017, advising the Council the Department would not be proceeding with its recommendation to add Dupuytren’s contracture to the list of prescribed diseases.
4.3 It was noted that this is only the second time in at least 30 years that a recommendation from the Council has been turned down. Concern was raised that Minister may not have had the full breadth of information and evidence available on this topic.
4.4 In the letter, reference was made to Dupuytren’s often being mild and not requiring treatment. This was countered by a member who, through direct experience, made the case that the condition is often serious and can have a negative impact on patient’s lives and functioning. Research reports were also identified that cited quite high complication rates if surgery is needed. It was felt that the Command paper published back in 2014 (Cm 8860, Dupuytren’s contracture due to hand-transmitted vibration: IIAC report) did not emphasise this aspect enough.
4.5 The letter also stated that the Department considered priority should be given to diseases which are more severe in their effects. A member noted that this decision marked a considerable change in policy from the government, although a DWP official said that there was no explicit intention to alter policy. It was noted that several other conditions which are less disabling in nature are scheduled within the Scheme and, moreover, that the legislative framework provides for aggregation of conditions. The decision by the Minister thus appeared at variance with a basic provision of the Scheme and previous practice and precedent, raising questions about policy intent, consistency and the equal treatment of claimants and potential claimants.
4.6 A member considered that the decision might be challenged under the Equality Act. Another thought that it would raise criticism and challenge in the House.
4.7 The letter from the Minister offered the opportunity to meet with the Chair to discuss the matter. It was decided that this meeting should take place as soon as convenient and ahead of Council correspondence. Two members with relevant expertise agreed to accompany the Chair to the meeting.