Posts by Lynn McDonald

To Mosby/Elsevier Publishing

September 6, 2016


We write with concern over errors in three books of yours so extreme that they amount to historical falsification. They concern the portrayal of Jamaican businesswoman Mary Seacole as a pioneer nurse and war heroine, in effect the equal of Florence Nightingale, who was, in fact, the major founder of the modern nursing profession and an important contributor to statistics, public health and hospital reform. Mosby is a major, and highly respected, publisher of works in nursing and healthcare, which makes errors of this sort even more regrettable.

The most egregious errors are in a chapter in Cherry and Jacob’s Contemporary Nursing: Issues, Trends and management, 6th edition 2013 and a 7th planned for 2017, and Kindle, Amelia Broussard and Elaine E. Ridgeway’s “The Evolution of Professional Nursing,” 1-11 and Jacob’s “The Evolution of Professional Nursing.” The book also gives too much credit to Nightingale in some places (details available, if desired).

Unit 1 p3: “Important Events in the Evolution of Nursing. 1854: During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale transforms the image of nursing. Mary Seacole nursed with Nightingale in the war.” Nightingale changed more than the “image of nursing.” Seacole is the only other person listed, as if she were the second most important nurse in the world, although she did not nurse with Nightingale, or with anyone else during that war. Name one! Rather, she ran a business, selling food, wine and catering for officers (described in 3 chapters in her book).

An ill-informed source is cited, Carnegie, who seems never to have seen Seacole’s own book on her life. Carnegie was an eminent American nursing leader, but not a historian.

P 11: Mary Seacole, “Mary Seacole, a black nurse from Jamaica, British West Indies, also played a major role in the Crimean War. After being denied the opportunity to join Nightingale’s nursing brigade, Seacole built and opened a lodging house with her own money. Seacole had extensive knowledge and experience in tropical medicine and believed she could make a contribution to the control and cure of the cholera epidemic. She arranged the rooms on the upper floor of her house into a hospital ward where she kept medicines that she formulated from herbs and natural plants (Carnegie, 1991).

At the end of each day, after caring for sick and wounded soldiers, Seacole then would walk to the Barracks Hospital and volunteer her nursing services to Nightingale. The two nurses worked side by side, each with a lamp in hand, giving care and saving lives. Seacole was honoured by the Jamaican government and the British Commonwealth for saving the lives of countless soldiers wounded in the Crimean War and the lives of thousands of others with cholera, yellow fever, malaria and diarrhea (Carnegie, 1991).”

The section is entirely wrong. Professor McDonald sent an email to Dr Cherry 11 August 2016 outlining the errors (see below). She responded with concern about accuracy, but so far, without either acknowledging the errors or answering with adequate sources. The section is so bad as to require retraction, with an explanation in the preface that it was based on faulty sources.

2. Current Issues in Nursing edited by Perle Slavik Cowen and Sue Moorhead, in numerous editions (2006 to 2014) and Kindle. The late Dr Cowen was and Dr Moorhead is a respected academic, but they are wrong.

Seacole, a Jamaican businesswoman, did not travel from Jamaica to England to volunteer as a nurse, but was in England to see to her unsuccessful gold-mining stocks (she had been running a business in Panama). She did not have letters of support from British army doctors, nor ever claimed to have (in her book, she cited one from a gold-mining company doctor (WA, 77). She did not practise with any doctors, also clear in her book. Name one!

Florence Nightingale did not turn her down twice to be a nurse. Seacole described one, brief, friendly, meeting between them (p. 91) when she was en route to the Crimea to start her business. She was turned down in her casual applications to various offices in London, but then she never submitted the required written application, with references, and she had had no hospital experience.

Nightingale had already left for the war when Seacole started to look for a post. The second team had likely already left, too. Seacole frankly describes being occupied, for two months at least, with her gold stocks (p. 74).

Mrs Seacole did not open a restaurant and clinic for soldiers. Her restaurant was for officers only. There was no second floor “health care clinic.” Huts don’t have second floors. She made it clear that no one stayed over night, and the business closed Sundays.

For her medicines she admitted adding lead acetate and calomel (mercury chloride) to her cholera “remedy” (p. 31), deleterious substances.

Seacole could not have worked every night at Nightingale’s hospital, which was 300 miles away across the Black Sea. Her own account is rather tame. Her store by evening was filled with “customers wanting stores, dinners and luncheons, loungers and idlers making conversation and amusement.” At 8 o’clock she closed it, “and I could sit down and eat at leisure … Anyone who came after that time came simply as a friend” (p. 145).

Nightingale neither turned her down as a nurse, nor worked with her as a nurse; Mrs Seacole did first aid work on the side, post-battle, on precisely three occasions. Her main function, which was greatly appreciated, was as the proprietress of a restaurant/bar/store/takeaway/catering service for officers.

See Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014, for better sources, and for other problems in the Seacole literature, see

3. There is a lesser erroneous section in Lillian DeYoung, Dynamics of Nursing.

14: “Over the years little or nothing was known about nurses other than Miss Nightingale who served in the Crimean War. Jamaica’s national heroine in that war was Mary Seacole, who died in London in 1881.” This is to accept as fact that Seacole served as a nurse in that war, when, by her own account, she ran a business for officers, selling wine, foods, and catering dinner parties.

“With her own funds went to the Crimea to serve. Florence Nightingale kept her waiting 40 minutes, so Mary Seacole went about visiting the sick and wounded. Miss Nightingale rebuked her as one who was “interfering.” Any source for this? Nightingale was busy running the nursing of the hospital and getting in needed supplies.

According to Seacole’s own book, she asked to meet with Nightingale after visiting men she knew in Jamaica (WA, 88). She recorded an amicable meeting with Nightingale, far from a rebuke: “What do you want, Mrs Seacole–anything that we can do for you? If it lies in my power, I shall be very happy” (WA, 91). What is the source for “interfering”?

“A historian of the war wrote in 1902” (which of the two authors and illustrator was the historian?) “Even in an enlightened century Mother Seacole stands out preeminent and cannot be passed over.”

The passage goes on to state: “She had the secret of a recipe for cholera and dysentery, and liberally dispensed the specific.” However, the ingredients she gave in her book, show her adding lead and mercury to the “remedy,” already heavy on emetics, purging and blistering, or dehydrating bowel patients. Exactly the wrong thing to do: oral rehydration therapy keeps the death rate low. Seacole herself acknowledged “lamentable blunders” (WA, 31).

Seacole was careful in describing her suspicions about racial discrimination playing a role in her being “rejected,” since she was well aware that she had missed the boat: Nightingale and her team had left in October 1854 and she only began her (informal) applications after November 30. “Deprived of services”? But she never submitted an application. The business plan she formed was not for “the sick” in general, or soldiers, but “to establish a mess table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers” (WA, 81).


[14 members of the Nightingale Society]

To the editors of Quay Books

A letter to the editors of Quay Books
August 28, 2016
Dear Ms Linssen and Colleagues:

We are writing with concerns about the egregious misinformation published in a book of yours, Austyn Snowden, et al., eds., Pioneering Theories in Nursing, 2010, in the article by Sue Royce on Mary Seacole and Snowden’s own introductory chapter. Your website claims: “Our content is always current and of the highest quality,” an undertaking belied by this material. Sadly, much misinformation has been published on Seacole, but this book is possibly the worst, i.e., by the number and extremity of claims entirely unsupported by primary sources, and indeed countered by primary sources.

These are not matters of difference of opinion or interpretation, the usual stuff of academic debate. Medical science journals now retract articles that are flagrantly wrong, such as by falsifying data. Royce’s and Snowden’s material is of that ilk.

There are three ways of falsifying data: inventing it, altering it, and ignoring or deleting disagreeable data. All three apply here. Pictures help, too, such as those on the dust cover, of Nightingale, Seacole and two others, making Seacole into one of the four leading nursing pioneers.

Snowden’s Chapter 1 lists Nightingale, Seacole and Robb together. Nightingale was the original pioneer and first theorist; Robb did important work some 40 years later, founding nursing schools, teaching nursing and producing three books on nursing, all building on Nightingale (she certainly deserves to be covered), but Seacole contributed nothing to nursing or nursing theory.

Snowden’s view that Nightingale was not a theorist is unusual; a large number of nursing theory books list her as the first. Snowden makes Nightingale and Seacole to be equals here, neither doing theory. (Robb was not a theorist, but used Nightingale’s environmental theory.)

“On her way to meet her cousin at the battlefields, she made a detour to visit Nightingale’s hospital at Scutari. Fluir (2006). Seacole was on her way to meet her business partner, a relative of her late husband, not on the battlefield (he was not a soldier) but at Balaclava, their purpose to establish a business. The reference to Fluir, Mary Seacole’s Maternal Personae in Victorian Literature and Culture Cambridge University Press USA 2006 could not be found. Presumably a journal article by Fluhr is intended.

“She did not actually meet Nightingale as she was ‘distracted by her meetings with old colleagues and caring for the wounded soldiers.” In her memoir, Seacole described a short meeting with Nightingale, when she asked for a bed for the night. She recorded Nightingale’s reply: “’What do you want, Mrs Seacole—anything that we can do for you? If it lies in my power, I shall be very happy’” (Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, p 91). The hospital was crowded, but a bed was found, with the laundress. This favour is made to be an insult: “She was allowed to stay the night but was required to sleep with the washerwomen rather than with the nurses.” There was no general nurses’ quarters, but they were split up in several, crowded, rooms.

Snowden’s introduction states: “Section One discusses the pioneers such as Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole who carved out the role of the nurse and professionalised it,” as if Nightingale and Seacole were both pioneer nurses, when Mrs Seacole, a generous and respected businesswoman, was not a nurse at all, let alone a pioneer nurse, nor ever claimed to be. The closest she comes is calling herself “doctress, nurse and mother,” but she reserved the title “nurse” for Nightingale and her nurses (see her excellent memoir).

Seacole did not nurse one day in any hospital, in the U.K., the Crimea, Jamaica or Panama. Name one! She did not write a book or article on nursing, teach or mentor a nurse. Name one! How, then, did she “professionalise” the role?

“Sue Royce comes to the conclusion that Western medicine was not ready for assertive healers like Seacole. In fact it took active steps to discourage her. Nightingale and Seacole and Seacole were in Scutari at the same time, but it appears Nightingale had no role for her there. Far from being put off by this, Seacole instead headed for the front line where she delivered care to soldiers on the battlefield. This persistence in the face of adversity is certainly a common theme amongst these early pioneers.”

Again, this treatment of the two as equals belies what is known from primary sources. Seacole is clear in her memoir that she stopped for the night at Scutari, visited at Nightingale’s Barrack Hospital and asked for a meeting with Nightingale. Of course Nightingale had “no role” for her there, nor did Seacole ask for any! She had purchased supplies for a business and was en route to meet her business partner and start it, as is clear in her book.

The “front line” claim is exaggeration, not invention. Seacole was on the battlefield on 3 occasions (she gives the dates), giving first aid after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators.

“Theory. Although Mary did not write about her nursing as did other nursing theorists, she did highlight many important issues.” None is named, and we do not know of any. Any examples?

Royce, in her Chapter 2, has Seacole being “rejected,” as do many other sources. If Seacole’s statement is carefully read, however, it is clear that she never submitted the required application and references (they are at the National Archives, Kew), but dropped in casually in numerous offices, all too late. Seacole acknowledged that Nightingale’s nursing team had already left, but hoped to go on a later one – but was too late for that, too. She was busy in her first two months in London attending to her gold investments, as she explained in her memoirs, a point omitted.

“Some army doctors were suspicious of her at first; fortunately others realised her skills and talents and utilised them fully.” Not one such doctor is named. Many doctors published their memoirs, journals and correspondence. Mrs Seacole, when mentioned, is described favourably, for her food and catering, never for nursing (examples are given in Lynn McDonald, Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014). No doctor invited her into his hospital, as Seacole made clear in her memoir. Name one! The hospital closest to her business was the Land Transport Corps. She visited there as a volunteer, taking around Punch magazine, and, on New Year’s Day, 1856, plum pudding and mince tarts. This was much appreciated, but hardly constitutes nursing. The hospital was nursed by Nightingale nurses, set up by Nightingale on the request of the commandant and principal medical officer.

Royce asks, rhetorically: “Why do we not have women healers like Mary Seacole today?” Healer? Mrs Seacole admitted “lamentable blunders” in her “remedies” (p 31); certainly her addition of lead and mercury to “herbal remedies” would qualify, as her use of emetics, purging and blistering, all of which dehydrate, now recognized as the wrong thing to do for bowel patients. (She was no worse than many doctors in this, but to make this into “healing” is wrong.)

There are also minor factual errors, such as her going bankrupt in the Crimea in 1856, when it was back in England, in 1857, that this happened; that she was the “toast of 19th century London society” is exaggeration.

These numerous and extreme errors, we propose, require retraction at the earliest possible. A statement should be made in the preface that the material was found to be based on faulty sources and has, consequently, been retracted.

Yours sincerely (signed by 14 members of the Nightingale Society)

To Baroness Amos, Baroness Benjamin, and Baroness Scotland

To Baroness Amos, Baroness Benjamin, and Baroness Scotland

Dear Baronesses Amos, Benjamin and Scotland

We ask, how could three smart baronesses get it so wrong? We refer to your remarks made regarding the unveiling of the Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital. They repeat, uncritically, the usual propaganda of the Seacole campaign.

1. The “pioneer nurse” claim, but no one, from the Dept of Health through the RCN will say what she pioneered or where and when she nursed. During the Crimean War, she gave out Punch magazine to patients at the Land Transport Hospital near her business. She gave them a plum pudding and mince pies on New Year’s Day 1856. This is hardly nursing! Seacole added lead and mercury to her cholera “remedies” and used emetics and purging for bowel patients, which dehydrate, when rehydration is needed.

2. Contrary to the ITV news report, which had interviews with Baronesses Benjamin and Scotland, Seacole made no “towering contribution” to public life. She was kind and generous and she left an excellent memoir. Baroness Scotland is out of line by equating the contributions of the two “great women,” one white and one black. Yes, the contributions of black people should be acknowledged and celebrated, Mrs Seacole was a businesswoman who never nursed at all! She sold fine wines and meals to officers, while Nightingale nursed and got the filthy hospitals cleaned up, laundries and kitchens established for the benefit of British soldiers.

3. We entirely share Baroness Benjamin’s view that blacks should be celebrated for their contribution. The Nightingale Society has proposed a genuine black pioneer nurse, Mrs K.A. Pratt, to the Dept of Health to be honoured. We do not oppose honouring blacks, but oppose the use of misinformation, so blatant in the case of Mrs Seacole. Lynn McDonald’s Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014, gives bios of six minority nurses who deserve to be honoured, all with excellent credentials.

4. The remark that we should stop being NIMBYs badly misses the point. St Thomas’ Hospital was for more than a century the home of the Nightingale School, the first nursing school in the world, important for establishing the profession in many countries. To have a statue at it honouring Mrs Seacole, albeit a decent woman, who gave out magazines and treats at a hospital, but who never nursed at one at all, is very wrong.

We would be happy to debate you on these points. We would provide you with a briefing. We think you owe the public retractions for your remarks. Plenty of information on the propaganda campaign is available. See

[signed by 14 members of the Nightingale Society]

To all Westminster MPs

August 7, 2016

Dear MP

It is probably no coincidence that the unveiling of the Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital, June 30, was set to coincide with major attention to Brexit. The unveiling was also the occasion on the awarding of the first History Hoax award, to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, for promoting Mary Seacole as a founder of nursing and a “Hero of Healthcare.” The nominator wrote:

In erroneously omitting Florence Nightingale from her role as founder of nursing, public health visionary and pioneer in statistical analysis to improving public health and save lives, the programme instead honoured Mary Seacole for nursing, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson for women in medicine, Edward Jenner for medicine, and Nye Bevan for the Healthcare system. All deserve credit for their contribution, but not to the exclusion of Florence Nightingale, whose quality and quantity of health impacts were far greater.

Runner-up in the History Hoax awards is Sir Hugh Taylor, chair of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, for justifying the statue site at what was the Nightingale School of Nursing, and issuing a fallacious “research” statement making Seacole a “heroine who gave her life’s work in support” of the early development of nursing (20 July 2011). Yet he can’t give one example of any nursing by Seacole whatsoever.

The announcement of the unveiling resulted in yet another false achievement for Seacole, that she was “mentioned in dispatches,” an honour reserved for gallantry in battle. Her 3 battlefield excursions (she missed the major ones) took place post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. Mrs Seacole was a kind and generous businesswoman, but did not frequent battlefields “under fire” or pioneer nursing.

The Nightingale Society supports honouring her for her own life, but will continue to protest the re-writing of history to give her credit for Nightingale’s work.

Yours sincerely

[signed by 14 members of the Nightingale Society]

From Dr Ron Trubuhovich to George Osborne

To: The Rt Hon George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
HM Treasury
Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ.
From: Ron Trubuhovich
7 Bingley Av,
Epsom, Auckland, New Zealand, 1023.
Dear Chancellor
As a citizen of a country of which Queen Elizabeth is Head of State may I ask you, thereby, would you kindly allow me the liberty of writing to you? My own background has been a professional life as an intensive care specialist, I am long in retirement, with my major activity now in writing medical history. Within the time of my history studies the outstanding lesson I have learnt is how absolutely essential it is to base the conclusions one makes solely on securing genuine confirmatory evidence. Such evidence comes from and is substantiated by primary sources, instead of being repetitive of what others say or have written if it is without reference to primary sources (or if based on hearsay). This principle has relevance in what I want to comment to you about: the commitment your government has made to fund the financial shortfall needed for installation of a statue of Mary Seacole at St Thomas’ Hospital.

I applaud the noble intention for equitable recognition for the role of ‘coloured’ pioneers among nursing (and medical) personnel. As you would be well aware Mary Seacole has been advanced for such a role as a ‘black’ pioneer for nursing in Britain – as well as in her home island. The exaggerated claims made by partisan enthusiasts to reinforce such an image do not contain credence on the basis of available evidence – however worthy a person she truly was, in herself. Support of my contention lies in the effective debunking of ten current myths about Mrs Seacole, lucidly and concisely set out from primary sources in Prof Lynn McDonald’s book ‘Mary Seacole The Making of the Myth’. It was published last year and is readily available in paperback, I will ask The Book Depository to forward your office a copy, presuming you would allow me that privilege.

May I then respectfully make this suggestion to you? I would ask you to have a member of your staff who is appropriately authoritative in history to read the book then report back to you on her/his assessment. (I can of course appreciate how limited is the time the busy Chancellor of the Exchequer can have available). My expectation is for him/her to conclude that wherever in London there is a suitable site for a statue of Mary Seacole to be installed, it is not in the grounds of the hospital of the true pioneer of British nursing, i.e., Florence Nightingale, a lady much revered in my country too. It would take political courage to require that a statue, which your government is assisting with financially, be located where it is appropriate elsewhere as a condition of your continuing support by funding. I would expect that armed with the true facts of this issue, you would not hesitate to face up to that issue in its own right.

With my kind regards

Ron Trubuhovich (Dr), OMNZ.
1st Dec. 2015

To George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer

To George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer

Rt Hon George Osborne, PC, MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
November 30, 2015

Dear Mr Osborne

The massive grant to the Mary Seacole statue is misplaced in three important respects: (1) Seacole was not a nurse, let alone a “Pioneer Nurse,” nor ever claimed to be one (in her book, “nurses” are Nightingale and her nurses); (2) the place is wrong, as St Thomas’ Hospital was for more than a century the home of the Nightingale School of Nursing, the first professional training school in the world, from which pioneers went out to bring the standards of the new profession to other countries. (3) It was Nightingale, not Seacole, who prepared briefs for committees, wrote and met with MPs and Cabinet ministers to press for reforms in nursing and health care.The process was flawed from the beginning. The Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust promised consultation on the statue, then made its decision without any (or consultation with an expert), behind closed doors. The high-circulation journal of the Royal College of Nursing, the Nursing Standard, does not permit articles critical of claims made by the campaign.

Mrs Seacole was an admirable, generous businesswoman, who deserves celebration. She should not, however, be credited with the work of another person. You should insist on a different site for the statue. Mrs Wendy Mathews, a Lambeth resident and former governor at St Thomas’ made a proposal at the Lambeth planning committee meetings.

How well she represents “black Britons” will likely be seriously challenged in coming years. She was three quarters white and proud of her Scots heritage; she had a white husband, white business partner and white clientele. She called herself a “yellow doctress,” not a “black nurse.” She employed blacks: two cooks, her porter and maid.

The Memorial Garden is a fine idea. However, it should not be associated with Seacole, who ran a business for officers, for profit, during the Crimean War, not a hospital for British soldiers, as is often incorrectly claimed. Did she put herself in “harm’s way”? According to her memoir, she went onto the battlefield three times during the war (she missed the first three battles as she was busy in London attending to her gold investments). The dates are in her book, as are the details of her sales of wine and sandwiches to spectators. Her forays onto the battlefield were post-battle, as noted by the Times correspondent, who was also on the battlefield, post-battle, to write up his stories.

Mrs Seacole was an honourable person who does not deserve to made a laughing stock. The statue as currently conceived will become known as a “History Hoax,” site for the giving out of History Hoax awards.

Yours sincerely

[14 members of the Nightingale Society]

To the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief of the General Staff

To Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, and
Sir Nicholas Carter, Chief of the General Staff, September 2015

Lord Soley, as chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Fund Appeal, has announced that he has approached the army, not specifying at what level, regarding a memorial garden to be identified with Mary Seacole, with seats named in honour of nurses killed in conflict zones. Since there is a plan to have a Seacole statue in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital, perhaps the intention is to expand that site-currently an eyesore-for the purpose. Or perhaps he has asked the Army to find a site. Could you clarify if any inquiries are in progress?

You may or not be aware of the close connection of St Thomas’ Hospital with Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), who headed the first team of British women to nurse in war. The nursing school she founded at St Thomas’, the first in the world, and which trained army nurses as well as civilian, was paid for by a fund raised in her honour, largely by the army, late in the Crimean War. That site remained the headquarters of nursing for more than a century, sending out trained nurses to introduce professional standards in hospitals throughout Britain and the world.
Mary Seacole was a businesswoman who ran, in effect, an officers’ club 1855-56. It was not a hospital or clinic, and she did not nurse the sick and wounded on the battlefield, as is so often claimed. She visited the local Land Transport Corps Hospital, near her business, to distribute magazines at it and send the occasional treat. This voluntary work was much appreciated, but to confuse it with the founding of the modern profession of nursing is nonsense.

Mrs Seacole sometimes called a “battlefield nurse,” when her forays onto the battlefield happened on three occasions, post-battle, after selling sandwiches and wine to spectators. She missed the first three, major, battles of the war as she was busy in London attending to her gold-mining investments (she had previously been in Panama with a business for men heading for the California Gold Rush). This is perfectly clear in her memoir, but her campaigners instead claim that she rushed to London to volunteer as a nurse!

We would be happy to furnish further details if any consideration is to be given to this memorial garden proposal. A website is available:

There is much to be said for the idea of a memorial garden for nurses, but it should be linked to real nurses who did give their lives to nurse in war.

Yours sincerely
(signed by 15 members of the Nightingale Society)

To Simon Stevens, CEO, NHS England

Simon Stevens, CEO

Dear Mr Stevens

Re: Mary Seacole Statue to be Erected
Work is going ahead at St Thomas’ Hospital on the site for the proposed Mary Seacole statue, to be labelled “Pioneer Nurse,” on which we have raised vigorous objections (not to a statue anywhere, but not at Nightingale’s Hospital and not labelling a restaurant/bar owner a “Pioneer Nurse’).

Since the full amount of money has not been raised for the statue, we ask, will health care money go into paying for it?

We expect that, should the installation go ahead, the site will become in time a Monument to Political Correctness, or “Hugh and Ron’s Folly” Sir Hugh Taylor, chair of the Trust and Sir Ronald Kerr, chief executive, have been the great promoters of the statue. Their use of blatantly false material to defend use of the hospital site compounds the wrong. Should St Thomas’ be exempt from normal standards of objectivity, fairness and accuracy?

Nightingale wanted her nurses to be “truthful, honest and trustworthy,” which, apart from the redundancy, we think are still worthy qualities. She famously held that hospitals should, first of all, do no harm, and we might add that they, too, should be honest and trustworthy in their own statements.

Yours sincerely

To the CEO of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Sir Ronald Kerr
Chief Executive Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
June 15, 2015

Dear Sir Ron

Thank you for your reply of June 9 2015.

We are very aware of the misinformation Lord Soley and his organization put out. If he has made any retractions or apologies, we would be glad to hear of them, so contact would be welcome. Thank you.

We note that the statue campaign website no longer displays the Crimean medal with 4 clasps, which Seacole did not win. However, no apology for the false claim has ever appeared.

That Lord Soley’s organization supplies misinformation does not justify the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust using it. We note that neither you nor Sir Hugh has ever given so much as one instance to justify the title “Pioneer Nurse” on the planned statue. We ask again. Failure to document any pioneering nursing should mean removal of the claim on the statue. Please respond.

We note your response that Trust funds will not go to funding the statue, but remain concerned about site preparation. Will a hole be left if the money is not raised? Who pays for looking after an empty site? Did anyone calculate the extra security that will likely be required when the statue loses its lustre? i.e., when political correctness no longer holds sway and people resent being taken in by your propaganda campaign?

Finally, we note the failure of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust ever to retract the misinformation it circulated in 2011 to justify the statue in the first place. We remain with Nightingale in the view that nurses should be “honest, truthful and trustworthy,” and would want the hospital of her school to meet this standard, too. That you have not requires attention and redress.

Yours sincerely


copy: Dr Ronald Trubuhovich, OMNZ, FRCA, FANZCA-whose letter to you with pertinent concerns remains unanswered

From Dr Peter Carter, RCN

Dear Wendy,

Thank you for your letter concerning Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and Edith Cavell.

I am not entirely clear what has prompted you to write now, when the Nursing Standard articles to which you refer were published in 2014 and 2013.

Although part of the RCN family, Nursing Standard is editorially independent and it is neither in my gift, nor would it be appropriate, to seek to direct their reporting on this matter. The RCN honours the different and distinctive legacies of these three important figures and I find it sad and a little perplexing that so much energy is devoted to controversy over their respective merits and historical significance.

The RCN works with the Florence Nightingale Foundation, providing support for its annual conference and commemorative events and also puts its full weight behind international nurses’ day which falls on Miss Nightingale’s birthday. We support the Mary Seacole awards and will be working with the Cavell Trust to mark the 100th anniversary of her death.

Personally I am a huge admirer of Florence Nightingale. This woman in my view is one of the most iconic people in British history over the past best part of 200 years. Her pioneering nursing work is unparalleled and is something to celebrate and cherish. Her ‘Notes on Nursing’ (1860) are as relevant today as they would have been all those years ago. Her use of statistics was pioneering as was her work on sanitation. A true woman of innovation and vision.

I am however not willing to see the RCN drawn into “taking sides” in this debate which I believe reflects rather badly on the spirit of generosity which is a hallmark of nursing.

Yours sincerely

Dr Peter Carter OBE
Chief Executive & General Secretary
Royal College of Nursing