To Stephen Hart, NHS Leadership Academy

Stephen Hart
Managing Director,
NHS Leadership Academy

June 2019

Dear Mr Hart

We wish to raise two matters with you, one positive, one negative, and ask a question.

The positive is the promotion of an outstanding nursing leader, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92), the first black nurse in the NHS, who remains remarkably unknown and uncelebrated. We want to see her recognized, such as by the naming of a Leadership Award after her. We can send you a link detailing her accomplishments, and there is a fine biography available on her.

The negative is the continuing downgrading of the work of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the first person to articulate the vision that became the core principles of the NHS. This neglect is combined with misinformation (now going on for many years) of Mary Seacole, a fine and generous businesswoman and volunteer hospital visitor during the Crimean War, but who was not a pioneer nurse, nor ever claimed to be one.

We note the bizarre ranking of Seacole as the top pioneer/ leader, by Clare Price-Dowd, of the NHS Leadership Academy, in an article published in the British Journal of Nursing. Price-Dowd gave no achievements by Seacole to justify that ranking. A letter to her follows which sets out our concerns in detail.

We note that the NHS Leadership Academy has programmes named after Edward Jenner, Rosalind Franklin, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Nye Bevan, all well qualified for the honour. There is no nursing leader, however, but Mary Seacole is named as one, without good grounds. She has many noteworthy achievements, but can you name anything she did in hospital nursing herself, or training nurses, mentoring nurses, producing books or articles on nursing and effecting change for the better in the profession?

We note that the Bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth will be celebrated next year, and ask what the NHS Leadership Academy plans to do to for this celebration.. We would be happy to provide you with information on the importance of Nightingale’s vision and work towards making quality health care available to all, regardless of ability to pay.

Yours sincerely

[ 18 members of the Nightingale Society ]

To Clare Price-Dowd, NHS Leadership Academy

Clare Price-Dowd
NHS Leadership Academy
June 2019

Dear Dr Price-Dowd

We write with concern about the position you took, and your failure to provide reasons for it, in your article in the BJN “The changing face of nursing: from the pioneers to the future of leadership.” Your choices of leaders/pioneers are odd, and you failed to give references on points of fact. There is so much misinformation about Mary Seacole in circulation that it is difficult to get the facts right, but there are adequate primary sources.

  1. Listing Seacole as the top choice of nursing leader/pioneer, without noting so much as one qualification: what nursing did she herself do? (apart from selling “herbal” remedies, which sometimes contained lead and/or mercury)? What hospital(s) did she nurse at? What books/articles on nursing did she write? What nurses did she train or mentor? We are aware of none.
  2. Nightingale’s work is well known, and she was, would you not agree? the major founder of the profession. You describe her rather as “the person most people see as the epitome of the nurse,” but why not say what she did? Especially as you later address the qualities needed for leadership in the future. You state that she used “models and theories to influence others to make changes in health care.” We would say that she used evidence, well argued and illustrated, to influence decisions in health care.
    Since your position is with the NHS Leadership Academy, it might be well to acknowledge that she was the first to call for the key components of the NHS, and that in 1866 and 1867! None of your other choices did anything close to what she did for the formation of the NHS.
  3. We wonder about the choice of Edith Cavell as a nursing founder, when her life was tragically cut short. She deserves celebration for her courage and patriotism, but she had only a few years giving leadership in nursing when she was executed.
  4. Kofoworola Abeni Pratt does deserve inclusion as a pioneer and founder, and it is time that the NHS Leadership Academy recognized her. Sadly, it seems still, as you yourself, more keen to repeat the misinformation of the Mary Seacole campaign than to provide credible BAME models for today’s nurses. You could start with Pratt! (See a backgrounder on her at

We urge you to go back to primary sources–much of the misinformation on Seacole can be seen to be wrong when her own memoir is consulted. The bicentenary of Nightingale’s life will be celebrated in 2020. We look to nursing leaders to make a positive contribution in crediting her for what she did. Celebrating Pratt, a Nigerian who chose to study nursing at the Nightingale School, is a fine example of Nightingale’s ongoing relevance–she inspired future leaders!

Yours sincerely

[18 members of the Nightingale Society]

Please reply to