THOUSANDS of former miners say they are being denied compensation for a condition that affected former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The Department of Work and Pensions has refused to recognise Dupuytren’s contracture as a prescribed disease, a decision described as a disgrace by the Durham Miners’ Association.

Dupuytren, for which there is no cure, is a condition in which the fingers gradually curl over into a claw-like state, and which in extreme cases can lead to amputation. The cause is unknown but is common among former pitmen.

Miners’ Association secretary Alan Cummings said: “This is an insult to injury to all those who have been injured in industry and we will not stop campaigning for justice on this issue.”

Four years ago, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council submitted a report to the then Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith recommending the condition should be recognised as an industrial disease.

Mr Cummings received an email last week from the DWP. It stated: “Following publication of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) recommendation to add Dupuytren’s contracture to the list of prescribed diseases for which Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) is payable, the Department for Work and Pensions considered the proposal...The recommendation has been carefully considered but it has been decided not to add Dupuytren’s contracture to the list of prescribed diseases.”

Mr Cummings said: “This is a disgrace. The IIAC report makes clear the link between the use of percussive tools and Dupuytren’s.”

Mr Cummings said he is furious that after four years and a clear recommendation from the IIAC that hundreds of former miners will not qualify for Industrial Injuries Disablement benefit.

He said the association would be co-ordinating efforts by groups and unions across the country to try to get the DWP decision reversed.

“This is a debilitating condition for many people and can be added to the list of other crippling hand diseases such as vibration white finger and carpal tunnel syndrome,” added Mr Cummings.

“The Miners’ Association will not accept this decision and will campaign to secure former mineworkers, and other workers affected, to receive their rightful compensation.”

The disease is named after Baron Guillaume Dupuytren. It is a progressive condition which decreases sufferers’ ability to grip objects and carry out simple day to day tasks.

Mrs Thatcher had her right hand operated on to relieve her contracture.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We currently spend £900 million a year supporting people with disabilities and health conditions through Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. We want to continue to help as many people as possible, and ensure that we’re targeting support to those with the greatest needs.

“If a person with Dupuytren’s Contracture is not eligible for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit they may still be eligible for support through other benefits such as PIP or ESA.”