To Matt Hancock, re coronavirus and the bicentenary

Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP
Secretary of State for Health
April 2020

Dear Mr Hancock

We wish you well in your own responsibilities in the coronavirus pandemic, and in your own situation.

In this the Bicentenary year of Florence Nightingale’s birth, declared the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization, we wish to see concrete, ongoing, recognition of her important contributions. She was not only as the major founder of the modern nursing profession and a hospital reformer, but as a pioneer of evidence-based health care and an early advocate of universal access to (quality) health care. She was the first person to articulate the principles of the National Health Service, of access to quality care for all, without regard to ability to pay.

Naming the temporary coronavirus NHS hospital after Nightingale makes so much sense. However, we want to see ongoing recognition of her great contribution, such as in naming a permanent building after her and/or an annual lecture.

We seek recognition of her legacy also 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. She began training in 1946, and was, in 1948, on the launching of the NHS, its first black nurse. Yet nurses do not know this, even nurses at the current Nightingale Faculty, housed now at King’s College, London.

These are not either/or proposals. Mrs “Rola” Pratt carried on Nightingale’s work. She was the major founder of professional nursing in Nigeria, which in turn influenced the development of nursing in Africa generally. We call on you to recognize both.

Yours sincerely

[19 members of the Nightingale Society]