Helen Wilkes has been appointed as the first Mesothelioma Clinical Nurse Specialist in the UK to focus on helping armed forces personnel and veterans.
Helen will be based at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and the new post is funded by national cancer charity, Mesothelioma UK through funding by the Chancellor using Libor funds.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer related to exposure to asbestos and Helen will help mesothelioma and lung cancer patients from Southampton, Portsmouth, central and southern England, the Channel Islands and the Falklands. She will help with patient journeys, from pre-diagnosis to potential outcomes including manning the national helpline, working with local support groups, raising awareness of the disease, and advising on treatment and clinical trial opportunities.
In her new role, Helen will also be 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. Helen will also work with a new Mesothelioma UK benefits advisor based at Southampton asbestos charity, HASAG to advise on specific benefits and compensation claims for armed forces personnel and veterans affected by the disease.
Helen trained at the University of Southampton. She has worked for over 10 years with lung cancer and mesothelioma patients including five years as a lung cancer specialist. Previously, Helen was a chemotherapy nurse for the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
This appointment follows the news that the University of Southampton is running a major campaign to fund the first dedicated cancer immunology centre in the UK, planned to officially open in spring/summer 2018.
Commenting on her new role, Helen Wilkes said: “I’m delighted for this opportunity to join the growing Mesothelioma UK nursing team. The role is hugely important with its armed forces personnel and veterans focus, 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 Fawley Power Station.
“With the developments in research through the clinical trials programme and dedicated centres such as the Immunology Centre set to open in Southampton in 2018, we’re getting ever closer to offering real hope to patients for their treatment and care.”
Liz Darlison, Mesothelioma UK Director of Services, added: “Helen’s appointment takes our UK nursing team up to 18 now with more planned. We’re absolutely committed to providing the best standards of care for mesothelioma patients and this team of dedicated professionals is helping so many people with this disease.
“The industrial nature of mesothelioma means that patients and their carers often have complex benefit and compensation claims to process. The process can be even more complex for armed forces personnel as their benefit and compensation entitlements differ. Helen’s appointment and support from HASAG will target this particular group with additional and much-needed support.”