A SOUTHAMPTON hospital has appointed the UK’s first specialist nurse who will focus on supporting veterans and industrial workers suffering from asbestos cancer.

Helen Wilkes, will care for patients from Southampton, Portsmouth, central and southern England, the Channel Islands and the Falklands.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer which develops in the lining of the lungs or abdomen and is often associated with exposure to asbestos.

In addition to helping patients throughout their journey, she will be working with local support groups, raising awareness of the disease and advising on treatment and clinical trial opportunities.

Helen, based at Southampton General Hospital, will also be the primary clinical contact for cancer charity,Mesothelioma UK’s specialist armed forces information, advice and support service.

As part of the role Helen will work alongside a new benefits adviser at Southampton-based asbestos charity HASAG to advise on benefits and compensation claims from armed forces personnel and veterans, as well as industrial workers affected by the disease.

“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.”

Liz Darlison, head of services for Mesothelioma UK, said: “Helen’s appointment takes our UK nursing team up to 18 now with more planned.

“The industrial nature of mesothelioma means that patients and their carers often have complex benefit and compensation claims to process and the process can be even more complex for armed forces personnel as their benefit and compensation entitlements differ.”