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.