The first mesothelioma clinical nurse specialist in the UK to focus on patients with an armed forces or military background has had her funding extended so she can become whole-time equivalent.
Helen Wilkes was appointed in 2018 as the first mesothelioma clinical nurse specialist in the UK to focus on helping armed forces personnel and veterans affected by the asbestos-related cancer.
“It’s been a busy time and she has helped many people affected by mesothelioma”
Her role has now been extended to a full-time position after funding was secured from two associated charities.
Ms Wilkes is currently based at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust in a part-time post funded by national asbestos-related cancer charity, Mesothelioma UK.
From 1 April 2019, the post will be full-time, after Southampton-based asbestos disease support charity, HASAG, provided further funding.
Ms Wilkes helps mesothelioma and lung cancer patients from Southampton, Portsmouth, central and southern England, the Channel Islands and the Falklands.
She helps with patient journeys, from pre-diagnosis to potential outcomes, works with local support groups, raises awareness of the disease, and advises on treatment and clinical trial opportunities.
She is also the primary clinical contact for Mesothelioma UK’s specialist armed forces information, advice and support service.
This government-funded initiative is delivering a specialist, UK-wide service for armed forces personnel and veterans who have been affected by mesothelioma.
Ms Wilkes also works with a Mesothelioma UK benefits advisor at HASAG to advise on specific benefits and compensation claims for armed forces personnel and veterans affected by the disease.
HASAG co-founder Lynne Squibb said: “HASAG is delighted to be part funding this much-needed post. Our patients will benefit massively by having a full-time Mesothelioma UK nurse.
“We are looking forward to again working closely with Mesothelioma UK,” she added.
Liz Darlison, head of services for Mesothelioma UK, said: “We’re so grateful to HASAG for supporting Helen to become full-time.
“In the year that she has been in post, it’s been a busy time and she has helped many people affected by mesothelioma, particularly those with an armed forces background,” she said.
She added: “The high incidence of mesothelioma in the Southampton area demonstrates the need for a full-time clinical nurse specialist and I’m delighted to be working with HASAG to enable local people to access the support they need.”