A FORMER pitman, who has been in hospital seven times this year because of his lung condition, has been given new hope in his bid for compensation.

George Cockfield, 80, of Ferryhill, County Durham, suffers from chronic bronchitis and emphysema as a result of 38 years working down the mines.

He can barely breathe without hourly bursts of oxygen, and needs help to go to the toilet and to get washed and changed.

His wife Greta wrote to The Northern Echo for help after learning that it could take months for him to be assessed by a doctor at home for his claim, first registered three years ago.

Officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in London, have said now that because of the severity of Mr Cockfield's condition, they will make sure his case has priority.

Mr Cockfield, who worked at Ferryhill, Chilton and Leasingthorne pits, has rejected in advance a £3,500 offer about to be made to him, aimed at settling his claim, saying it is disgraceful.

His deteriorating condition is treated with a range of tablets and medication, some of which have caused red marks on his arms.

During frequent hospital visits he was once sent home in the evening and was back in hospital again during the night, because of breathing difficulties.

He said: "I am sitting here a cripple. I get up in the morning, and my wife gives me a hand to put my clothes on, and then I am in my chair for the rest of the day.

"I can get to the front gate sometimes, but that is it on most days."

He has been offered an appointment for a medical in Durham, organised by Healthcall, but is too ill to attend.

A spokeswoman for the DTI said Mr Cockfield was in line for an interim offer of £3,500.

She said: "We can see this man is very ill, and will be making sure it is a priority to get his medical records and organise an appointment for him."