The Florence Nightingale Foundation and Health Education England are proud to announce the first Florence Nightingale Foundation Michael Clift Scholar – Lizzie Bessell

Michael Clift 

As a nurse, Mike’s practice was characterised by compassion, humour and thoughtfulness. After qualifying from the University of Central England in 1998, he worked at Birmingham Children’s Hospital for several years in paediatric surgery before travelling the world and gaining experience in children’s hospitals in New Zealand and Australia.

Mike began working in general paediatrics at the Whittington Hospital London in 2004, going on to become a charge nurse, then a practice development nurse.

At the time of his death, Mike was the lead for clinical practice education in nursing across children’s services at the Royal Free London. His own practice was driven by interests in compassionate healthcare, adolescent mental health and patient safety.

He completed an MSc in nursing studies in 2016 and was co-lead of the Royal College of Nursing’s children and young people’s education and practice development community.

Mike was most proud of his influential work co-developing a compassionate healthcare model. This pioneering work reflected his own compassionate approach, not only to clinical practice, but in the way he supported and cared for colleagues. His gentle kindness, sharp wit and uncanny ability to find the right words at the right time is remembered fondly by many colleagues.

He took his own life as a consequence of debilitating chronic depression which he managed courageously for many years until it became too much to bear. He was a staunch advocate for CALM: The Campaign Against Living miserably and the de-stigmatisation of mental illness.


Lizzie has been nursing for 11 years as a children’s emergency nurse. She spent a year in Australia, travelling the world where she worked on a mental health ward. It was here that her passion to improve the care and services for Children and Young People (CYP) started. Her nursing career mirrored the experience with her family life. She grew up with a parent with severe mental health problems and so developed compassion and an understanding of the multi-factorial impact and challenge mental wellbeing has, not only on that individual, but the people that surround them. She realised that behind the diagnosis they are the most amazing, intelligent, hard-working and inspirational people.

Lizzie Bessell

Lizzie says “This scholarship will give me an opportunity to continue the fantastic work that Michael Clift begun, to uphold his legacy through the Florence Nightingale Foundation. I feel humbled and honoured to develop mental health services in the acute emergency setting. I will develop a project to improve care for children who attend emergency services. Children with mental health issues are often in a moment of crisis when they arrive at the hospital emergency department and are often seen by non-mental health trained staff. My educational project will aim to turn this around and provide a holistic and person-centred approach for these CYP. Driven, inspired by passion, I believe that the attributes I possess as a leader while enable me to challenge the status quo, explore and deliver innovative care that puts mental health and emotional wellbeing at the heart of our purpose as children’s nurses. I will improve the voice of these children and young people so they are not only heard but respected and valued, and together we can improve the acute care they receive”.

Lizzie is now the Senior Sister and Children’s Nurse Team Manager of the Children’s Emergency Department, East and North Herts NHS Trust. She is very grateful to Health Education England for funding this scholarship. There will be a further opportunity for 2 more nurses, one in 2020/21 and another in 2021/22 to be awarded this prestigious scholarship.

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