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Royal accolade for work with NHS colleagues from overseas

“Greetings from the Philippines and Bury St Edmunds – and Happy, Happy Birthday!” These were the words with which NHS colleague John Songkip greeted King Charles III, when he attended an event for overseas NHS nurses and midwives at Buckingham Palace.

John is a practice education facilitator with the clinical education team at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT), training and supporting nurses and midwives educated overseas who have chosen to come to care for patients in Suffolk.

Originally from the Philippines, John was one of 400 people invited to a reception on the King’s 75th birthday, to highlight the work of overseas nurses and midwives over the decades as part of the NHS 75 celebrations.

The event, on Tuesday, 14 November, was also attended by the newly-appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins MP.

John said: “When I was first contacted in confidence by the NHS regional team about the event, it was such a surprise. I was just back from my annual leave in the Philippines at the time, and my first thought was: are you sure it’s me?

“They said they were very happy with the support I give to international colleagues and were nominating me to attend the event. I did feel this was beyond just me, it’s the entire team and the Trust working so hard for our colleagues, but only one person could be nominated per Trust.”

John said his mum was thrilled for him. “I was so pleased and exalted to be invited. I felt I should be wearing our national costume and was delighted to see most people there were in theirs. It showed that there is such diversity in the NHS. The Palace was very impressive – fit for a King!” John joined the whole crowd, and the NHS choir, in singing “Happy Birthday” to the King.

He said: “The King was so pleasant, he looked so happy to see people from so many different countries. I shook his hand twice, had a face- to-face encounter with him and was able to wish him Happy Birthday on behalf of the Trust.

“There were so many matrons and senior staff there, and I was able to tell them about the pastoral care gold award, and others the team has received. It is so important to ensure people know what we are doing.

“I was able to emphasise that we have developed a specific preceptorship programme for our overseas staff and have constant discussions about how to improve the programme we offer. We always take feedback from our international colleagues, who have prior experience and training.”

John added: “I have so much appreciation for our head of clinical education, Diane Last, and am grateful to the whole Trust, to have been given the opportunity to have this once in a lifetime experience.”

Diane Last said: “We are extremely proud that John was nominated to attend this event on behalf of the WSFT.  John represented all of our international staff, and this was in recognition of the support that he pays forward to all of our new internationally recruited nurses.”

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John Songkip at Buckingham Palace

John Songkip at Buckingham Palace