Baroness Mary Watkins steps down as FNF President

The Baroness Mary Watkins of Tavistock

Baroness Mary Watkins of Tavistock, a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords, has been President of nursing and midwifery charity Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) for the past seven years. She stepped down at the organisation’s AGM on September 12 due to other commitments.

With over 45 years’ experience in a wide variety of nursing and leadership roles, Baroness Watkins is an international expert in nursing and healthcare workforce and has ensured the Florence Nightingale Foundation has grown and evolved under her guidance to meet the needs of our nurses and midwives today.

Of her tenure as President at the Florence Nightingale Foundation, Baroness Watkins says: “It has been an honour and a privilege to be President for 7 years and to see the Foundation develop and grow. The focus on all branches of nursing, and scholarships increasingly being awarded to nurses and midwives from all groups of society has been a particular pleasure to be associated with during my period of tenure. I remain fully committed to supporting the Foundation in the future and want to thank everyone who has been involved in making the FNF such a success during this period.”

Qualifying as a general nurse in 1976 and a mental health nurse in 1979, Baroness Watkins worked in community and in-patient mental health acute settings, providing non-emergency and emergency healthcare.

Awarded a Florence Nightingale Foundation Scholarship in 1985, she was later appointed Dean of the then Faculty of Health and Social Work at Plymouth in 2003, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health) in 2005 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 2007. She is also a visiting Professor in the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King’s College London.

Baroness Watkins has a particular interest in governance having been a Secretary of State nominee to the UKCC for Nursing and Midwifery (1996-2001) and was a member of the UKCC Education Commission – the Peach Review, 1999. She has held a variety of charitable trustee roles including Dementia Care (Bristol), Cornwall Care and the Burdett Trust for Nursing.

She was a member of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Appraisal Panel (2001-2007). In addition, she was a board member of the South-Western Ambulance Trust for a 6-year term including a period as the Senior Independent Director (2011-2017). Earlier this year she was also appointed to the NHS England leadership team as a non-executive director.

She is currently alternate Chair of Nursing Now, a global initiative to raise the profile of nursing, and in this role was co-chair of the World Health Organisation’s review of the State of the World Nursing which reported in 2020.

Simon Gillespie, Chair of the Board of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, says: “Baroness Watkins has been an outstanding President, guide, mentor, and friend for the Florence Nightingale Foundation for the last seven years. Under her stewardship, the Foundation has weathered the challenges of austerity and the COVID-19 pandemic, to innovate its approach, and broaden and extend its influence as a leading voice in developing nursing and midwifery leadership in the UK and across the world.”

In the interval of appointing a new President, Florence Nightingale Foundation’s Vice-President, Avery Bhatia, will be its interim President.

Find out about all our officers and trustees here.

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