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