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A dedicated support service has been created for Filipino health and care staff who are experiencing bereavement or trauma during the coronavirus pandemic.
The launch by NHS England comes amid concern about a high number of deaths in the UK among nursing professionals from the Philippines.
“The NHS is pleased to back this support helpline for Filipino staff”
A government inquiry is currently underway into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.
According to the PA news agency, approximately 13% of the health and care workers who have died during the UK pandemic have been of Filipino heritage, the majority likely to be in nursing.
Over the weekend, Antonio Lagdameo, the Philippines’ ambassador to the UK, issued an appeal urging the NHS to ensure the “heroes” tackling the virus were “properly protected and equipped”.
The new helpline will be free, confidential and run by specialist counsellors and support workers fluent in Tagalog, a language widely spoken in the Philippines.
The launch follows “wide engagement on support needs with Filipino colleagues across the NHS”, according to NHS England.
Callers will be able to seek help with problems associated with bereavement and any other mental health concerns that have emerged during the crisis.
Professor Em Wilkinson-Brice, NHS deputy chief people officer, said: “The NHS is pleased to back this support helpline for Filipino staff working across the NHS which has been developed after active listening, consultation and engagement.
“It is just one of a number of health and wellbeing care offers that are part of a current package of mental health and long term crisis support offers, several of which have been accessed by staff across the NHS thousands of times.”
One of the highest-ranking Filipino nurses in the UK, Edmund Tabay, deputy chief nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, welcomed the new helpline.
He said: “We welcome this initiative for Filipino staff whose wellbeing may have been affected by witnessing traumatic deaths or who just feel overwhelmed by the ongoing daily pressures they are facing every day, dealing with this global health emergency.”
The helpline is supported by charity Hospice UK and follows the launch of a more general NHS helpline for health and care staff struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus crisis.
Nursing Times is working to raise awareness of the mental health needs of nurses tackling the pandemic and lobby employers and government for immediate and long-term support for them, through our Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign.
As part of this, Nursing Times editor Steve Ford questioned health and social care secretary Matt Hancock on the topic during one of the daily coronavirus briefings at No 10, specifically highlighting the need for tailored support for BME staff.
The new Filipino support service is available by phone seven days a week between 7am and 11pm on 0300 303 1115 or 24 hours via text by texting Frontline to 85258.