Published on: 12 July 2021

20th anniversary (2).jpgA group of Filipino nurses at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust are celebrating over 20 years living and working in the UK. 

Over two decades later the 33 nurses, who were some of the very first to join what is now South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, are still working there and are key members of the Filipino community in Sunderland. They celebrated the incredible milestone with a virtual ceremony, attended by the Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May. 

Ruth said: “I was delighted to attend the 20th anniversary celebrations of colleagues at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. It was fantastic to hear their stories and to see how much they are valued by the organisation for their important contributions.

“My congratulations to all those celebrating. Your hard work and commitment to patient care is truly valued.

“International nurses have been a part of our diverse NHS for many years and this year the NMC reported that there are now over 28,000 Filipino nurses on the permanent register, an 11% increase on the previous year. We are lucky to have you and thankful that so many excellent internationally trained nurses want join the NHS in England.”

Mayflor Bernal, Who joined the Trust in 2001 at 22 years old, left the Philippines20th anniversary (1).jpg to embark on her career as an adaptation nurse. She then progressed to Junior Sister, followed by Ward Manager, and has recently been appointed as the Trust’s Lead Nurse for International Nurses. 

She said: “I am delighted to celebrate 20 years of service here at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, as the saying goes ‘time flies when you're having fun.’ 

“Working in the UK can be a challenge, from the massive cultural differences to the weather! It can also be exhausting, but it allows me to work with some amazing people and make a difference in their lives. Seeing their smiles, their appreciation and hearing them laugh is more than enough to keep me going.” 

Many nurses from the Philippines have followed in Mayflor’s footsteps and made a home for themselves in Sunderland. 

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust currently employs 603 (registered) international nurses, 421 of which are from the Philippines. The Trust expanded its recruitment efforts into the Philippines in 2018 and has appointed around 306 nurses in the last 3 years. This strategy has helped the Trust reduce its nursing vacancy rate to 2.8%, which is below the national average of 12% and means the Trust has one of the lowest nursing vacancy rates in the region.

Mayflor added: “As Lead Nurse for International Nurses, I want to ensure that everyone has a positive experience in the workplace. One of my key priorities is to promote equality and diversity ensure that everyone has equal access to education. I aim to be a role model to all international nurses and inspire them and show them that they can have a successful career, just like me.”

Melanie Johnson, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “We are hugely indebted to our Filipino nurses for the excellent care and support they have provided to our patients and their loved ones over the last 20 years. They are a fantastic asset to the STSFT team and have played a vital role throughout the pandemic. 

“We understand how difficult it must have been to leave family and friends behind and head into the unknown, but we are so proud that they have made Sunderland their home.

“This is an incredible milestone to reach and I’d personally congratulate them and thank them for their dedication, not only to our Trust but also to the NHS.”

20th anniversary (3).jpgApproximately 28,000 Filipino nationals work for the NHS, as nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals. Filipinos play a hugely important role in the UK and form the third largest ethnic group in the NHS‘s diverse workforce. The contribution they have made to support the Trust and the NHS during the pandemic has been invaluable.