SHADOW health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has pledged to set up a specialist clinic for mineworkers in the North-East if Labour get to power.

He said former colliery workers could expected to have more lung checks with NHS experts and that any treatment would be fast-tracked.

Mr Ashworth said the measures were designed to help people with conditions such as COPD, emphysema and pneumoconiosis.

Mr Ashworth said: “We know that who people in the North-East who worked in the mining community are suffering from lung conditions as a result of the arduous labour they carried out.

“They are desperately serious, life-threatening conditions.

“We want to make sure that miners get lung checks but also we are going to invest in a specialist lung checks in the North-East.

“There has been one in South Yorkshire which has been an excellent facility in recent years.

“Our vision is that the North-East has a specialist clinic for former miners and those living in the coalfield communities to give them the extra specialist help they need.”

Mr Ashworth was in the region this week on the campaign trail ahead of next week’s General Election and stopped at Spennymoor Settlement for a rally with party activists.

He was joined at the event on Wednesday by Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman, who welcomed the proposals

It is understood more than 11 per cent of people living in the coalfields report long-term health problems, limiting the day-to-day activities of more than 400,000 people.

The clinics, also in the Midlands and the North-West, will offer pulmonary assessments, basic lung function testing, smoking cessation services, on site occupational and physiotherapy, and advice on diet and exercise.

The proposals are being supported by Durham Miners’ Association board member, Stephen Guy, the son of former DMA president David Guy.

Mr Guy, 52, who worked at Woodridge Drift Mine, near Consett, and Middridge Drift Mine, near Shildon, and is now a trade union official with the NAS/UWT, said: “This is a fabulous announcement and certainly sets the Labour Party aside from all of the other parties in the General Election. It is a big investment to address the legacy of the mining industry and the health inequalities that that has left.

“I see this an opportunity for the the former miners to have their health at the top of the agenda again.”