First Ever Asbestos Nurse Appointed

Neil Munro Acorn News

The UK’s first asbestos nurse has been appointed in a hospital in Southampton. As a specialist, the nurse, Helen Wilkes will be focusing on caring for patients suffering from asbestos-related cancers, such as mesothelioma, but also looking to raise awareness of the disease, providing a vital link between charity groups, and patients. Trained at the University of Southampton, Helen worked for ten years with lung cancer and mesothelioma patients, five of which were sent as a lung cancer specialist. Her appointment signals a new attitude towards the care of patients with asbestos related diseases, offering an approach that will help not just with care and treatment, but also providing support with benefits and compensation.

Why is a specialist asbestos nurse needed?

The UK has the highest rate of mesothelioma, with more than 2,500 people diagnosed with the condition each year. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, which cause incurable damage to the thin membrane which covers the lungs. According to the department for health, and pensions, 53,000 people will die room mesothelioma between 2013 and 2037.

Why Are Mesothelioma Rates High in the UK?

Asbestos, the material that causes the damage, was used in factories, commercial buildings, homes and schools as a form of insulation, fire protection and general construction material to name a few, up until late in the year 1999 in the United Kingdom, much later than many other countries, though not all. In the 1970s rising numbers of asbestos-related diseases caused legislators to start to call for regulations on how workers were protected from the dangers of asbestos fibres, however, a full ban of using asbestos in construction was not introduced until 1999.

What Will the Asbestos Nurse Be Doing?

As part of her role, asbestos nurse Helen will be working alongside local support groups to raise awareness of the disease, and advising on treatment and clinic trial opportunities. She will also be the main contact for the charity Mesothelioma UK’s specialist armed forces support service.  Mesothelioma UK is a national resource centre which provides free specialist information support and care for those suffering from the disease.

She will also work alongside a new benefits advisor at Southampton based asbestos charity HASAG to advise on benefits and compensation claims from armed forces veterans, and industrial workers suffering from the disease.

Helen has stated ”

“I’m delighted to be given this opportunity to join the growing Mesothelioma UK nursing team,” said Helen, who has worked with lung cancer and mesothelioma patients for more than ten years.

“This role is hugely important given the particularly high incidences of mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos that we’ve seen from patients in the local area with people employed at the dockyards, based here during navy service or at the power station in Fawley.”

Are There Plans For Further Asbestos Nurses?

Yes! Mesothelioma UK, the charity backing this form of nursing have plans to extend this specialist role across the UK. The nature of caring for patients with asbestos-related illnesses is complex. As well as care and treatment, there are additional complexities surrounding benefits claims, compensations claims, and the entitlements can differ depending on how their work background.