British Envoy: Filipino health workers vital care providers in UK

(Photo courtesy of PH Embassy in UK Facebook Page)

BAGUIO CITY – Filipino medical professionals, especially nurses, are known for being compassionate and caring, thus considered important parts of United Kingdom’s health service.

Iain Cox, political counsellor of the British Embassy in Manila, said British people have, one way or another, encountered Filipinos in the medical field.

He considers such interactions personal as a Filipino nurse took care of his mother, who succumbed to cancer a year ago.

“During that time, we had a Filipino nurse who was one of her main carers and I would speak so grateful for how she looked after my mom and my family during that period. Very direct experience indeed,” he said during a press conference during an official three-day visit to the Cordillera last week.

Cox said 20 percent of some 250,000 Filipino workers in the UK are in the medical field.

“We are very dependent on them to deliver health services to the UK,” he said.

He said an average person in the UK will likely know a Filipino or about the Philippines even if that person has not been here partly due to Filipino medical workers.

“When I say this is an important part of people-to-people exchanges that is what I meant. That is how people get to start to meet Filipinos and learn a little bit about your culture. And they, so often, are very touched by their compassion and care,” he shared.

Cox said Filipinos workers in the UK “make a vital contribution to our economy.”

“They are very, very highly respected in their work there and the work they play in the national health service (sector)… Many of them were in the frontline during the pandemic. They played a huge part there,” he further said.

He recalled that King Charles, then still a prince, thanked Filipinos for their patience during the pandemic.

Several Filipinos have also been included in the UK honor society, among them nurse May Parsons, who administered the first Covid-19 vaccine in Great Britain on Dec. 8, 2020.

Parsons, a University of Santo Tomas graduate who has been in the UK for 21 years, received the George Cross award from the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.

Parsons was the first Filipino to receive the award, the highest honor for civilians in the UK.

In an online interview, nurse Lani Ortega, 51, said she left for the UK in 2021 amid the pandemic.

Despite her age, she didn’t find it difficult considering the assistance to new nurses in the UK.

“They are strict when it comes to protocols but you will feel your protection and safety as a professional,” she narrated in Ilocano.

Ortega will come home this year to fetch her minor son.

“He negotiated to finish junior high school before he transfers to the UK and I assure him that despite the change in environment and language, everything will be alright,” she said.

Ortega said her late decision to go to the UK was prompted by the prodding of nurse-friends who enticed her with better prospects, especially for single mothers like her.

“I do not have regrets even if I came [to the UK] late in my life. My son who is still young will surely reap the benefits of my decision,” she said. (PNA/Liza Agoot)