To NHS Employers

NHS Employers
27 October 2016

Dear Sirs/Mesdames

Leadership and Development awards, linked to work for BME communities, is a fine idea. However, such awards should not be associated with misinformation or propaganda, as is now the case in the Mary Seacole Leadership (£12,500) and Development (£6500) awards.

You describe Seacole as a “nurse and businesswoman.” She was indeed a businesswoman, but the “nurse” is problematic, as she never called herself one, but rather used “doctress” and mixed titles like “doctress, nurse and mother” (see her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands). The plain title “nurse” she used for Nightingale and her nurses.

You mis-date the Crimean War, exaggerating it, presumably in aid of your exaggerated claims for Seacole. Turkey and Russia were at war 1853-56, but Britain joined in only in March 1854; Mrs Seacole arrived in the Crimea only in March 1855, after the worst half of the war was over.

The claim of “bravery in nursing soldiers” is a gross exaggeration, beyond even Seacole’s own claims. She gave first aid on the battlefield, post-battle, on precisely 3 occasions (she gave the dates in her memoir), after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators (her business). She visited soldiers at the closest hospital to her business, the Land Transport Corps Hospital, to distribute magazines (Punch magazine shows her in a cartoon doing this, with its magazine). However the nursing was provided, at the request of the commandant, by Nightingale’s nurses. On New Year’s Day, 1856, Seacole gave the patients at it plum puddings and mince pies. She was a generous and appreciated volunteer, in short, but this is not nursing, nor heroism.

We urge you to celebrate genuine black and minority nurses in your awards. We can give you one worthy name (no doubt there are others also deserving), Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (c1910-93), who trained at the Nightingale School and was supported by the Nightingale Fund. She nursed at St Thomas’ 1946-50, hence through the creation of the NHS. On return to Nigeria, she was appointed the first Nigerian matron of University Hospital, Ibadan, and then became the first Nigerian to be appointed chief nursing officer for her country. She was made a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing in 1979, and given an honorary doctorate from the University of Ife in 1981. A biography of her is available: Justus A. Akinsanya, An African ‘Florence Nightingale’: A Biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (Ibadan: Vantage 1987).

Pratt had to overcome racism both in Britain in the NHS and in her own country, pre-independence. She would be an inspiring choice.

Sincerely yours

Mark Bostridge MA (Oxon), biographer
Robert Dingwall, PhD, FacSS, HonMFPH, prof emeritus, Nottingham University, founding director, Institute of Science and Society
Rose Dyson, EdD, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Marilyn Gendek, RN, MA, MN, FACN, consultatnt, nursing regulation and education, Australia
Marc Gilbert PhD, National Endowment in the Humanities Chair, Hawaii Pacific University; president, World History Association
Paul Hawkins (Rev), MA (Oxon) MA (Cantab)
Eileen Magnello, DPhil, research fellow, University College London
Wendy Mathews, BA, Grad Dip Phys (ret), former governor Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
Lynn McDonald, CM, PhD, LLD (hon), emerita professor, director, Collected Works of Florence Nightingale
Aroha Page, PhD, assoc professor nursing, Nipissing University
Allyson Pollock, FFPH, FRCGP, FRCP (Ed) professor, Public Health Research and Policy, Queen Mary College, London
Harold E. Raugh, Jr, Lt Col, PhD, FRHistS, FRAS, US Army, ret.
Colin Robins (Major) OBE, MA (Cantab), FRHistS, editor emeritus, War Correspondent: Journal of the Crimean War Research Society
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, MES, PhD, lecturer in environmental health, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Pat Smedley MSc (Nurs), BA Hons, RGN, former chair, Friends of the Florence Nightingale Museum
Ronald Trubuhovich, OMNZ, FRCA, FANZCA, FCICMANZ
Alex Whitehead (Rev Canon) MA, Mphil, Dip Ed, Homiletics co-ordinator, Lincoln College of Theology and Ministry

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