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Working life: Supporting Soho’s Chinese community

Dr Ethie Kong provides voluntary, charity, trustee and clinical support to the Chinese communities of Soho and Brent 

Turning 60, I decided it was time for a change. I moved to Westminster from Brent to take more of a role in clinical leadership – but in reality I’m just as busy. I was a senior partner in Brent but still ended up as the lead partner in Westminster!

I work flexibly on Mondays. As the remote GP, I assist with clinical paperwork, actioning results and hospital letters, completing medical reports and dealing with emails to my practice. This allows me to advise my voluntary groups. 

I recently received the great news that the Chinese Welfare Trust is recruiting a Chinese-speaking Admiral Nurse to serve dementia patients of Chinese heritage. Dementia isn’t widely acknowledged in Chinese communities as it’s viewed as a normal ageing process. Those affected rarely ask for help, and many older patients are neglected or viewed as a burden to their families. But this nurse will do home visits and see patients in appropriate sites. Today, I help the charity to find these sites. I also write a funding bid for the Brent Chinese Association, of which I’m chair, and I work on the health and wellbeing subcommittee of the Ashford Place charity for Brent’s homeless and vulnerable, of which I’m a trustee. I take a moment to contemplate the current GP bashing, largely in the press. If I wasn’t involved in community work, I might have retired, but the positive outcomes in our communities give me resilience.

I feel particularly sad that black and minority ethnic communities are seeing huge increases in mental health difficulties. It’s important for them to have someone who understands their culture and language, so nothing is lost in translation. 

Covid has impacted all generations, but in Westminster many of our younger generations are international students. The lack of support and distance from their families meant the pandemic was very tough for them.

I’m the remote GP again today. I also attend a meeting on rebuilding patient participation groups. Since Covid, these have been less active. 

As a voluntary worker, I head to Ealing for an evening home visit to a housebound lady in her 90s. She was discharged from hospital, confused about her medications and unable to communicate with her GP because of language barriers. Her GP and I ultimately manage an integrated care plan.

I’m co-founder of the Brent Chinese Association, which provides free bilingual advisory and health check services and pop-up Covid vaccination clinics, which I organise alongside other volunteers who are mainly NHS professionals helping outside their day jobs. 

I do more work for Ashford Place, helping to set up weekly nurse-led free advisory sessions.

At NHS England and Improvement’s Chinese Vaccine Uptake Task and Finish group, I’m invited to share my work from the pandemic. In Soho and Brent, the Chinese communities became the targets of hate crimes, which showed their vulnerability. It was the first time some of these reticent people sought help.  

The GP Federation, NHS and council usually run clinics in Soho from Mondays to Saturdays in culturally sensitive sites. We also hold Sunday clinics with Chinese community groups. These are popular with people working in catering, as they often only have a half-day off, on Sundays.

This is my clinical day at the practice. I enjoy seeing patients of different ages, as well as those of Chinese heritage – students, families, and older generations. Afterwards I visit Soho’s London Chinese Community Centre to meet elderly residents and those from other boroughs. They enjoy the social activities and share a three-course lunch for a fiver. They spend a whole day here, which eases their social isolation and provides respite for their carers. 

Challenges aren’t insurmountable with a committed, skilled and well resourced team.

Profile Dr Ethie Kong

Role GP partner with various other healthcare and community responsibilities 

Location Soho, central London and Brent, north-west London 

Hours worked Highly variable between work in GP partnership, the CCG and community

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