Archive for September, 2012

To Malcolm Cantello, Alan Lovell, and Christina McAnea, UNISON

Mr Malcolm Cantello, president; Mr Alan Lovell, chief executive;
Ms Christina McAnea, head, Healthcare team
Unison Centre
130 Euston Road
London NW1 2AY

September 25, 2012

Dear Mr Cantello, Mr Lovell and Ms McAnea

We are writing to propose a rethinking of the importance of Florence Nightingale for nursing, for which you, as a major union, play an important role. We were unhappy and somewhat puzzled by the unanimous decision made back in 1999 to “ditch” Nightingale as the most significant founder of nursing, not least of all for the reasons stated. We suspect that those who voted simply did not know what Nightingale said and did to establish the modern profession. We note that the negative statements made about her were repeated in 2007 (“Kick over the Statues”) and on 12 May 2010, International Nurses’ Day.We would be pleased to meet with you or some representatives to pursue these issues. We think that Michael Walker and Wendy Wheeler have a point that the problem may be more in the “interpretation” of Nightingale’s legacy than in the legacy itself. Re-examination of what exactly she said and did would, we believe, lead to quite a different impression (see Did You Know below). There is much in Nightingale’s work that is still relevant today, especially on the principles of public health care, priority to health promotion and disease prevention, concern for occupational health and safety of healthcare workers, good salaries and working conditions.We want also to correct the misunderstandings in circulation on key points regarding Mary Seacole. We do not at all oppose recognition of her for her work, but rather the according to her of false accomplishments, some of them, in fact, Nightingale’s. So much misinformation about Seacole is now in circulation that it would be difficult for even the most fair-minded inquirer to get the story straight. We give as an example the statement made by your then president on becoming a patron of the Seacole Campaign:When Mary Seacole nursed the sick and wounded on the frontline in the Crimea she did not ask for, or expect any reward. She did it for the British troops, who she loved and admired.

But Seacole did not nurse the sick and wounded on the frontline at all, contrary to what is frequently said. Her British Hotel was a restaurant and store for officers, with minimal service to the troops. Seacole was generous to ordinary soldiers, but this was extra, volunteer work (and commendable): her main occupation was “sutler” or “provision merchant,” for which she had a business partner. She invested in the British Hotel, using the proceeds from her previous business of supplying gold miners on their way out to the California Gold Rush.

The website for the “The Mary Seacole (1805-1880) Campaign ‘Turn her into stone'” contains a number of serious errors, including a false accusation that Nightingale rejected Seacole as a nurse:

  • Hearing of the poor medical provisions for would soldiers during the Crimean War, Seacole, who arrived in London in 1854, applied to the War Office and relevant authorities,
    But Seacole was en route to London on business regarding her gold stocks when the first battle took place, and only then decided, after Nightingale and her nurses departed, that she wanted to go to (see her Wonderful Adventures p 74).
  • “She was turned down by all, including one of Florence Nightingale’s nurses,” but Nightingale never heard that she had applied.
  • “Later the British Government decided to permit women to travel to the affected area. A party of 38 nurses was chosen by Florence Nightingale. Mary Seacole was not included.” No, the group had already left and Seacole was hoping to go with the second lot of nurses; her exclusion had nothing to do with Nightingale.
  • “Instead she borrowed money to make the 4000 mile journey by herself at the age of 50. She set up a store and hotel.” She did not borrow money but used the profits from her last business venture; the “store and hotel” was a restaurant and store, a “mess table” for officers (see WA p 81).
  • “Mary Seacole distinguished herself treating battlefield wounded and nursing wounded soldiers from both sides while under fire herself.” Seacole never made such a claim; on 3 occasions she went on to the battlefield, post-battle, with refreshments for sale; she also assisted with first aid. She used the expression “under fire” in quotation marks, as did others-for anyone walking around in the camps was at some risk. On one of her battlefield excursions she mentioned assisting Russians (see p 157).
  • The “transcript of a letter” from Sir John Hall cited in the website was not a transcript, but part of Seacole’s own memoir, for which no documented source is known, and it is very unlikely to have been written by Hall (see p 170).
  • The excerpt from Russell (although he was not then “Sir”) is correct as far as it goes, but it misleadingly omits his other remarks about her work as a “sutler,” or supplier of provisions, her chief work (see viii).

We must wonder about a union that calls for equal dignity for all attacking someone for her race, class of origin and religion, as Unison’s rejection of Nightingale in 1999 seems to do, for her being “white, middle class and Protestant.” This is the more remarkable when you support Seacole, who was three quarters white, also middle class and Roman Catholic.

We would agree that there are other “founders” of nursing worthy of recognition-Nightingale herself particularly appreciated Mary Jones and Sarah Wardroper. The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale provides information on a number of other worthy leaders.

Nursing leaders of diverse backgrounds of course should be celebrated. Some examples (a start) of African, West Indian and South Asian pioneer nurses are given, with information on Seacole, at http://www.maryseacole.info.

Elizabeth Fry was an early promoter of nursing, but her organization was chiefly for private nursing for the wealthy in their homes. Nor did she promote the development of a profession which Nightingale did. Making her the “founder” of nursing we suspect would be a step backwards.

We look forward to exploring these important issues with you. One of us, Lynn McDonald, lives in Canada but will be in London in the spring; the other three are resident in London and could be available earlier. McDonald, as well as being the one most knowledgeable about Nightingale, is a former Canadian MP (of a sister party to the Labour Party) and a successful advocate on women’s and public health issues.

Yours sincerely

 

Attachment to Letter to UNISON, September 25, 2012 from the Nightingale Society

Did You Know?

  • That Nightingale did pioneering work on occupational health and safety for nurses;
  • That she wanted nursing to be an independent profession; nurses would take medical instructions from doctors, but no doctor would hire, fire, discipline or promote a nurse; those decisions would be made by senior nurses;
  • That Nightingale’s vision included a career path, with increases in salary and responsibility, through the ward sister to the superintendent or matron, which was a high paying job? That giving superintendents power to hire, discipline, etc., was to remove it from doctors, then 100% male when nurses were 100% female-it was an unspoken measure to prevent sexual harassment of vulnerable women nurses;
  • While Nightingale wrote about “self sacrifice,” she consistently argued for good salaries and working conditions for nurses, holidays of at least a month per year; decent pensions; good living conditions during training; and hospital design to save nurses’ energy for patient care;
  • That Nightingale worked mightily to make nurses givers of patient care, instead of hospital cleaners; hospitals should hire cleaners and nurses ensure that the job was done; nurses could not be the cleaners themselves.
  • That “nurses,” before Nightingale’s time were not what we would recognize as nurses. In the army they were recruited from among the wives and widows of privates and non-commissioned officers (doctors were always officers), were paid less than cooks and laundresses, and reported to a sergeant. Before Nightingale’s time they would not have even spoken to a doctor; they were subordinate to a sergeant!
    Thus the statement that Nightingale wanted nurses to be “subordinate to doctors” misses the point. When she started her nursing school in 1860, women did not even have a high school education, let alone university. Doctors, with university and medical qualifications, would never have accepted them as equals. Nightingale worked prodigiously to improve the status of nurses, and saw it rise. When she started, “nurses” were listed with “domestic” servants in the Census; by 1901 they were in “medicine.” In the army they became “officers,” like doctors;
  • Did you know that Nightingale worked to upgrade the terrible workhouse infirmaries into real hospitals? That she held that the same high quality of care available to the rich should be also for the poor? Is this not a message still needed today?
  • Did you know that Nightingale worked with other professionals- doctors, statisticians, engineers, architects-on health care reforms? A union wanting to encourage its members to think of policy and advocacy would find much that is relevant in her example.
  • Did you know that the original Elizabeth Garrett Hospital, where the Unison Centre now lives after much rebuilding, was a women’s hospital on whose design Nightingale worked? That she contributed to the funding for the hospital, and helped raise money for it?

For more on what Nightingale actually said and wrote see: www.uoguelph.ca/~cwfn.

To Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, PC, MP
Secretary of State for Health
Richmond House, 79 Whitehall
London SW1A 2NS
September 10, 2012

Dear Mr Hunt

On 2 August we wrote your predecessor (letter attached) with our concerns about the proposed placement of a Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital, with the designation “Pioneer Nurse,” approval for which was given by the board of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. The minister had an email sent to us in reply declining to take any action, but referring us to the current chair of the Trust, Sir Ron Kerr. We will indeed write once more to the Trust in the hope of a serious response to our concerns, one we never received from the last chair.

We wish, however, to gain your views about the criteria set for Trusts in their decision making. We understand the independence of the Trust as a Foundation Trust. However, this concerns decision making prior to its becoming a Foundation Trust, and indeed under a different government and regime. As more transparent analysis of the rationale for discussion comes to hand, we believe that this has the potential for very significant public embarrassment, and therefore are seeking your good offices in addressing the errors made.

We ask you, at the very least, to inform the current board of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust that the purveying of false information and decision making behind closed doors, based on misinformation, are unacceptable.

For information on Seacole see: www.maryseacole.info/
for Nightingale: www.uoguelph.ca/~cwfn
A reply would be appreciated: contact@nightingalesociety.com

Sincerely yours

[attached: letter to Andrew Lansley, Mr Hunt’s predecessor as Health Secretary]

To Janice Murray, director, National Army Museum

Mrs Janice Murray, Director
National Army Museum
Royal Hospital Road
Chelsea
London SW3 4HT
September 10, 2012

Dear Mrs Murray

We are pleased to see that several of the errors on the National Army Museum’s website on Mary Seacole have been removed, a good step, for which our thanks, but we must note that serious mistakes remain. We suggest some alternative wordings:

Place of birth: Kingston, Jamaica (why not give her city and country of birth, instead of “West Indies”?)

I learned to be a “doctress” or herbalist from my mother and provided remedies to many people, in Jamaica, Panama and then at the Crimean War.

Omit “nursed thousands through the cholera and yellow fever epidemics.” Not true, she never claimed it (see her Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands).

Omit the sentence “four out of five men would die not in battle but of disease,” for four out of five men did not die, but roughly one out of five, and of these roughly four out of five died from disease, but Seacole could not have known that at the time, as the data were not published until much later. She went to the war out of a sense of patriotism, as she explained in her book. (See www.maryseacole.info/ for page numbers and quotations)

A group of women led by Florence Nightingale (why be coy?)

When I could not join the official team of nurses I went anyway. My business partner and I started a restaurant and store for officers near Balaclava. I also helped ordinary soldiers who came to me for remedies.

Omit the last section. She and her business partner had laid in expensive stores, and of course their huts could not be sold. The fund that paid for her support got its donations from officers, not ordinary soldiers.

The troops called me “Mother Seacole.” Many came to a large festival in my honour at Surrey Gardens in the summer of 1857, It was supposed to make enough money to help me, but did not. I went back to Jamaica for awhile, then returned to London. Some officers kindly started a fund to support me in my old age.

For information on Seacole see: www.maryseacole.info/
for Nightingale: www.uoguelph.ca/~cwfn
A reply would be appreciated: contact@nightingalesociety.com

To Sir Hugh Taylor

Dear Sir Hugh

I appreciate your giving Wendy Mathews and myself time for a meeting in April this year. Since then, as you know, the Lambeth Planning Committee approved the placing of that massive Seacole statue at St Thomas’. Since then also a group has been formed, The Nightingale Society, to promote understanding of Nightingale’s work and reputation, and to contradict misinformation circulated about them.

You stated at our meeting that the board intended no disrespect to Nightingale with its promotion of Seacole. You seemed to be under the misimpression that the Seacole Memorial Appeal Campaign was as high minded. You mentioned specifically that Lord Soley never spoke against Nightingale, nor are we aware that he has. Other members of the campaign, however, have and do, notably the vice-chair, Professor emeritus Elizabeth Anionwu, the major spokesperson in the Nursing Standard and in the various films and electronic material supporting the campaign.

Prominent in the Seacole campaign is the nursing union Unison, which in 1999 voted to “ditch” Nightingale as the model of nursing. Its spokesperson gave as reasons the fact that Nightingale was “white, middle class and Protestant.” Unison’s president and its head of nursing were named respectively Patron and Ambassador for the campaign.

The BBC “Knowledge” film on Seacole, in which Anionwu is the presenter, makes disparaging remarks about Nightingale and compares her unfavourably with Seacole. For example, Seacole is said to have won 4 medals for bravery, while Nightingale won none, when in fact Queen Victoria gave Nightingale a medal, which she never wore, and Seacole won no medals, although she wore three or four after the war in London–it was not then a criminal offence to wear military medals not your own, although it would be now.

Anionwu’s many articles and interviews in the Nursing Standard also make unfavourable comparisons, such as that Seacole got on well with her “medical colleagues,” while Nightingale did not (Anionwu 2010 18), although Nightingale worked for decades after the war with doctors she first knew there, and there is no evidence that any doctor recognized Seacole as a “medical colleague,” although several acknowledged her kindness, and liked her food at the British Hotel.

In the meeting Mrs Mathews and I had with you, you thought that the hospital website could acknowledge Nightingale’s importance and relevance for the hospital. When? How can we help?

I repeat my offer to give your board a briefing on Nightingale and Seacole, when I am next in London, and several well-informed people are available now who could give you a briefing.

To Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary

Dear Mr Lansley

We are writing with concern about the decision made by the Guy’s-St Thomas’ NHS Trust board of directors to approve the use of a “prestigious” site at St Thomas’ for the placement of a statue honouring Mary Seacole. We do not at all oppose the honouring of Mrs Seacole with a statue, but its placement at St Thomas’, Nightingale’s hospital.

The decision was made with flagrant disregard of due process. The then chair of the board was Patricia Moberly, a government appointee (by a previous government). Experts were not consulted, nor were the governors or staff consulted or even informed. The Nightingale Fellowship, whose members were trained at St Thomas’ when it was the home of the Nightingale School, was similarly excluded.

  • 23 November 2005, a note from the chair, Patricia Moberly, for the directors meeting, reports the approach by the Seacole Statue Appeal and agreement “that we should explore without commitment the possibility of a position on the St Thomas’ site,” the board to be informed “as the discussions progress.”
  • 25 April 2007, at a board meeting, the director of Capital, Estates and Facilities (hardly an expert on the history of nursing) asked for and received approval for the celebration of the nursing work of both Seacole and Nightingale, although there was still to be exploration as to the “viability” of the development.
  • 23 January 2008, at a board meeting the decision was announced as a fait accompli: “commitment to support a Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’”.

The current hospital board has added to the violation of due process by issuing blatantly false information used in support of the earlier board’s decision (see below).

The placement of the statue at St Thomas’ was approved by the Lambeth Planning Committee at a meeting 12 April 2012, however at this meeting no consideration was given to the merits of honouring Seacole there, any connection she might have had with the hospital (none); only purely technical matters were allowed, and there were no technical objections. Some of us sent letters of objection to the planning officer, but these were dismissed, reasonably enough, as not pertinent to the committee’s terms of reference.

We have appealed to the current chair of the board of directors, Sir Hugh Taylor, but he simply ignores letters objecting to a decision made by his predecessor and an earlier board. Two of us had a meeting with him early in April 2012, but he seemed quite unfamiliar with our objections, even to the misinformation campaign–he preferred simply to go along with the earlier decision.

In addition to St Thomas’ being the home base for Nightingale’s work on nursing, she substantially influenced the design of the 19th century hospital, when it was a pioneer of the pavilion, safer, mode of hospital construction. (Three of the pavilions still stand: the others were destroyed in World War II and the new hospital is of the current high-right design).

Placement of the statue opposite the Houses of Parliament compounds the insult to Nightingale, who got two royal commissions established, greatly contributed to their work, wrote a brief for a major Parliamentary committee on workhouse infirmaries, and influenced Cabinet ministers and MPs on numerous matters of public health. As concerns about hospital safety and good patient care continue to be salient matters of public policy, it would be well to have her gaze at the Houses of Parliament unimpeded by a replacement, who did none of those things.

We note that Seacole herself had no grudge against Nightingale and made no claim to have pioneered nursing. We note that alternative sites have been suggested and are available for a Seacole statue, that do not disregard Nightingale’s great work and its home base.

We urge that you direct the Guy’s-St Thomas’ board of directors to withdraw the offer of a site for the Seacole statue at St Thomas’, withdraw the false statements it made to justify that offer, and issue a corrected statement to explain why the site is inappropriate for the purpose of honouring Seacole.

To David Cameron

Dear Prime Minister

Florence Nightingale’s work was in so many respects for the whole nation and indeed for the better health of the world, without regard to party (she was a lifelong Liberal supporter, but of course worked with ministers of both parties). Perhaps the fact that you have a daughter with her name reflects an appreciation of her vision and work.

We forward you a copy of a letter sent to your secretary for health regarding the decision of the Guy’s-St Thomas’ NHS Trust board to give a “prestigious” site at St Thomas’ for a gigantic statue to honour another person, Mary Seacole, a statue of sufficient size to be seen from Parliament. As explained in the copied letter, we have no objection to honouring Seacole, but rather to her designation as the “Pioneer Nurse,” when she never claimed to be a nurse at all, at St Thomas’ Hospital, home of Nightingale’s truly pioneering nursing work.

The international dimensions of the insult need also to be considered. Contributions to the Nightingale Fund, which paid for the Nightingale School, came from around the world, and Nightingale repaid that obligation by sending out trained nurses to the world–beginning with Australia, Canada, America and Europe. Japanese nurses, notably, still visit St Thomas’ Hospital to pay tribute to the source of their own profession. Yet the plan is for another person to be the visible “Pioneer Nurse” at St Thomas’ and to correct the misinformation it has circulated.

This becomes a matter of government responsibility given that the decision was made, in flagrant disregard of due process and any considerations of due diligence, by an NHS board of government appointment. We urge that the present board be directed to withdraw the offer of a site for the Seacole statue.

To HRH Princess Alexandra

To HRH Princess Alexandra, in her role as patron of the Florence Nightingale Museum

Your Royal Highness

We write with concern about the projected placement of a statue to honour Mary Seacole as the “Pioneer Nurse” at St Thomas’ Hospital. Press reports state that you have been designated the person to unveil this statue. Yet you are a patron of the Florence Nightingale Museum and of the Florence Nightingale Foundation.

We wish to make it clear that we do not oppose honouring Seacole for her own life and work, but rather the appropriating to her the work of Florence Nightingale, who was not only Britain’s “pioneer nurse” but the major founder of nursing throughout the world, work based at St Thomas’ Hospital. The hospital design itself was influenced by Nightingale–the three pavilions not destroyed in World War II plus the governors’ court and chapel. The hospital originally built on the site was of the then innovative, safe “pavilion” design, and architects came from America and Europe to see it.

The fact that St Thomas’ faces Parliament only adds to the offence, for Seacole had nothing to do with political change for health care, while Nightingale throughout her life wrote briefs for Parliament and lobbied Cabinet members and MPs on key needed reforms.

The board of the Guy’s-St Thomas’ NHS Trust made its decision in favour of a statue on the basis of massive misinformation provided to it by the Seacole Memorial Appeal Campaign, misinformation which it then further circulated. For further information see www.maryseacole.info

We understand the desire of many people to celebrate a black heroine and make her a role model, but we do not believe that the end justifies the means, that the work and reputation of anyone else should be denigrated in the process, or that false “information” should be used to justify the claims made for the honoree.

To Martin Jennings, sculptor

To Martin Jennings, designated sculptor of the Seacole statue

Dear Mr Jennings

We are writing with concern about the placement of a Mary Seacole statue, of your design, at St Thomas’ Hospital, with the designation of Seacole as “Pioneer Nurse.”

We note the fine statue of Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras Station, your work, with the claim that he “saved this glorious station,” which he no doubt did. The situation for Seacole, however, is quite different. We do not disagree with honouring her, and a statue by you would be a fine tribute, but she was not a pioneer nurse, nor ever claimed to be a nurse at all. Rather she was a businesswoman. She ran a boarding house for years in Kingston, Jamaica, and the “British Hotel” in the Panama, in fact a restaurant and store for men en route to the California gold rush, and for a year the British Hotel in the Crimean War, again a restaurant, store and takeaway service for officers, not a hotel. It did not provide nursing care or accommodation for soldiers.

Seacole called herself a “doctress,” meaning a herbalist, although what was in her remedies is not known in any detail. She did act with kindness and compassion to ordinary soldiers, in voluntary work, pro-bono, but this hardly saved “thousands” of lives as is now claimed.

Nor did Seacole win the medals claimed for her by the Seacole campaign, which you state she was “proud” to wear. She did not mention them in her Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, and the picture of her on the cover shows no medals–evidently she wore them in London later. It was not then a criminal offence to wear military medals not your own, although it would be now.

We wonder what information you were given when you prepared your design and wrote up your description.

To HM the Queen

H.M. the Queen
Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA
September 10, 2012

Madam

We write with concern about the projected placement of a statue to honour Mary Seacole as the “Pioneer Nurse” at St Thomas’ Hospital. Press reports state that your office will ask Princess Alexandra to unveil this statue, or you might be asked to unveil it yourself–as you opened a Seacole Building at Brunel University in 2006.

We wish to make clear that we do not oppose honouring Seacole for her own life and work, but rather the appropriating to her of the work of Florence Nightingale, who was not only Britain’s “pioneer nurse” but the major founder of nursing throughout the world, work based at St Thomas’ Hospital. The hospital’s design itself was influenced by Nightingale, and can be seen in the three pavilions that were not destroyed in World War II. The hospital originally built on the site was of the then innovative, safe “pavilion” design, and architects came from America and Europe to see it.

The fact that St Thomas’ faces Parliament only adds to the offence, for Seacole had nothing to do with political change for health care, while Nightingale throughout her life wrote briefs for Parliament and lobbied Cabinet members and MPs on needed reforms.

The board of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust made its decision in favour of a statue on the basis of massive misinformation provided to it by the Seacole Memorial Appeal Campaign, misinformation which it then further circulated. For further information see www.maryseacole.info. Part of our concern is the possibility of significant embarrassment to your office in the light of how this misinformation is now being unraveled and revealed, as not only being inaccurate but, in too many instances, deliberately misleading.

We understand the desire of many people to celebrate a black heroine, but we do not believe that the work and reputation of another person, especially one so closely associated with your ancestor Queen Victoria, should be denigrated in the process, or that false “information” should be used to justify the claims made for the honoree.

For information on Seacole see: www.maryseacole.info;
for Nightingale: www.sociology.uoguelph.ca/fnightingale/.
A reply by your staff would be appreciated: to
contact@nightingalesociety.com

Yours sincerely