Update on Newsletter of March 31
So much has changed since the last Nightingale Society newsletter went out. Most notably, the five new temporary hospitals (one opened, in the Docklands) are named NHS Nightingale Hospitals. We must congratulate the chief executive officer of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, and the secretary of state for health, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, for this decision.
We already had a letter, which many people co-signed, to send Matt Hancock. It now needs to be updated. The letter had not gone, as it seemed best not to raise a subject unrelated to the urgent issue of the day, the pandemic.
The letter to Baroness Scotland does not need editing. If you did not sign it before, feel free to do so now—it will go out shortly.
It was good to see that the petition to name the largest of the new temporary hospitals, that for Birmingham, after Mary Seacole, was ignored. Who needs propaganda when a pandemic has to be dealt with?
Please say if you wish to co-sign the following letters. Reply all, or whatever to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter to Matt Hancock
Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP
Secretary of State for Health
April 2020Dear Mr Hancock
We congratulate you for the good decision to name the temporary hospitals to deal with the coronavirus pandemic NHS Nightingale Hospitals.
Nightingale, of course, was not only the major founder of the modern nursing profession, but a pioneer of evidence-base health care, and an expert on infectious diseases who assisted in achieving an enormous reduction of rates of disease and death from the Crimean War.
In this Bicentenary year of Nightingale’s birth, we also seek recognition of her legacy in the nursing leaders she inspired. This would be an ideal time to honour the first black nurse in the NHS, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-85), herself a Nightingale nurse who chose the Nightingale School for her training because of her regard for Nightingale. After nursing in the NHS, Pratt returned to Nigeria, where she became the first Nigerian matron of a hospital (University College Hospital, Ibadan). She established the first nurse training school in Nigeria, as Nightingale founded the first nurse training school in the world. Pratt went on to oversee its transition from hospital affiliation to university and participated in international organizations on nursing. A good biography is available on her, and shorter works. See http://nightingalesociety.com/backgrounders/8-kofoworola-abeni-pratt/
Letter to Sir Simon Stevens
Sir Simon Stevens
Chief executive officer, NHSDear Sir Simon
We congratulate on the choice of “Nightingale Hospitals” for the five new temporary hospitals needed for coronavirus patients. Nightingale was not only the major founder of the modern nursing profession, but an expert on infectious diseases and an astute researcher, whose work helped to reduce rates of disease and death by learning from past experience.
There are obvious parallels between the current pandemic and the fevers and bowel diseases that killed so many people during the Crimean War of 1854-56, and indeed throughout the 19th century. There was no vaccine and no effective treatment for any of them. In Nightingale’s time, those diseases had not even been identified (most were in the late 19th century). Yet she, with her team of experts, was able to learn how improved sanitary measures brought down death rates. She went on for decades afterwards to press for safer hospitals and barracks for the British Army, and safer hospitals, housing and communities for the population at large.
That these measures worked can be seen in the declines in the number of hospital beds the British Army needed. The vast army hospital that was built after the war, at Netley, near Southampton, was over-built, its number of beds based on the usual pre-Crimea percentage. That hospital was not filled to capacity until the Boer War of 1899-1902, more than 30 years after it opened.
Can the lessons of coronavirus be learned and the right changes made? This pandemic is likely to carry on for some time, and/or return for later waves. We need medical experts to find an effective vaccine and methods of treatment. As well, especially while waiting for such developments, we need research to assess how effective the various measures now in place are in limiting that spread. Nightingale’s expertise in “outcomes” research helped to save lives. We need those principles applied to today’s challenge.
Letter to Baroness Scotland, Commonwealth Secretariat
Dear Baroness ScotlandWe are concerned about your remarks at the conference of the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation March 6. The World Health Organization chose 2020 for the Year of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife precisely because of that year being the bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth. Yet, in your remarks you included Mary Seacole along with Florence Nightingale, as if she had made any kind of similar contribution. You made three such references, as if equals, and indeed your third reference gave precedence to Seacole. She was an interesting, independent and generous person, and her business for officers much appreciated. What exactly, we ask, did Seacole do as a founder either of nursing or midwifery. Specifically, kindly state:
- At what hospital(s) she ever nursed
- What nurses she trained or mentored
- To what countries did she sent nursing leaders
- What books, articles or chapters she produced on either nursing or midwifery
Seacole’s three forays onto the battlefield post-battle are documented — yes, kind acts, but so did many people perform such kind acts and they are not credited as founders of the nursing profession. She distributed magazines (donated by officers and their wives) to the hospital close to her business, and took the patients their mince tarts on New Year’s Day 1855. Again, kind acts, but hardly close to what Nightingale did.
In Seacole’s fine memoir, it is clear that she was running a business. She never called herself a “nurse,” but did use the expression “doctress, nurse and mother”; “nurse” she used for Nightingale and her nurses. She described her “remedies,” and also acknowledged that she made “lamentable blunders,” and certainly the addition of lead and mercury would qualify.
In short, your assessment of Seacole’s contribution reflects the common propaganda for her, which is not based on fact. It is unacceptable that you should foist your personal opinion at a Commonwealth event to which you were invited for your position as secretary general.
Not the least of the harms done by the Seacole propaganda campaign is the failure to recognize significant BAME nursing leaders. A prime example is Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, a Nigerian (Nigeria is in the Commonwealth), who trained at the Nightingale School in London, then led in the introduction of professional nursing by Nigerians in Nigeria. See http://nightingalesociety.com/backgrounders/8-kofoworola-abeni-pratt/ See also: http://nightingalesociety.com/backgrounders/13-florence-nightingale-and-the-commonwealth