FNF hosts 59th Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service 

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In its 90th anniversary year, FNF hosted the 59th annual Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service in Westminster Abbey, to give thanks and to celebrate nurses and midwives everywhere who continue Florence Nightingale’s legacy today.

On 15 May we welcomed over 2000 guests to the abbey. UK and globally based representatives from across all nursing and midwifery organisations and communities, sponsors and supporters of the charity, our recently graduated Scholars, alumni who have attended our leadership programmes in the past twelve months, and FNF Academy Members. 

Professor Greta Westwood CBE, CEO, Florence Nightingale Foundation said “The Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service is the highlight of my year. I consider it an absolute honour to host the event and celebrate nursing and midwifery with so many from around the UK and globally too. The music is exquisite, moving and provides peace in our busy days. It is such a unique opportunity for reflection and to thank nurses and midwives for the difference they make to people’s lives. In FNF’s 90th anniversary year it is more important than ever to be convening and recognising nurses and midwives from the many diverse roles and backgrounds across our professions: a global community”.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, said: “I was honoured to attend the Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service, and to have the opportunity to mark the vital contribution of the nurses and midwives who have followed her exceptional example. Nurses and midwives are the backbone of our healthcare system and today we reflect and celebrate their immense contribution and service. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “Since the formation of our NHS 76 years ago, nurses and the wider nursing profession have been central to it – synonymous with our founding principles, and at the forefront of many of the advances the health service has been able to deliver for patients.

“But it is important that we also recognise that the huge contribution made by modern nurses predates the NHS, running all the way back to Florence Nightingale and other pioneers. And even today that contribution to society is still seen far wider than the NHS – from our Armed Forces to social care – and across the globe, too.

 “It was a privilege to be part of yesterday’s service to mark this contribution, and I want to thank the Florence Nightingale Foundation for their continued championing of nurses everywhere.”

During the Service, we remembered nurses and midwives named in two Rolls of Honour. The Commonwealth Roll of Honour commemorates nurses who lost their lives on active service in the Second World War and was compiled by the British Commonwealth Nurses’ War Memorial Fund. It was carried through the abbey by a military nurse and escorted by the Chief Nursing Officers of the Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force.  The Covid-19 Pandemic Roll of Honour, introduced in 2022, is dedicated to all nurses, midwives, nursing associates and health care support workers who courageously and selflessly provided care during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was carried through the abbey by UK Chief Nursing Officers (CNO), namely Dame Ruth May, DBE, CNO England, Sue Tranka, CNO Wales, Katy Rennick, Deputy CNO Northern Ireland, and Professor Jacqui Reilly CBE, Director of Nursing and Executive Lead for NHS National Services Scotland, representing Scotland.

Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said“It was an honour to be a part of the Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service and the procession for the Covid-19 Pandemic Roll of Honour. I will remain forever proud of the extraordinary contribution our nurses, midwives, nursing associates and support workers made during the pandemic. Yesterday’s service was an important opportunity to reflect on this, and to recognise the difference those within our nursing and midwifery professions make to so many every single day.”

As has been tradition since 1970, a lamp was carried through the abbey. This year it wasy Emily Pimm, an FNF Scholar and social care nurse at St Monica Trust, who led the way. 

The Lamp Carrier was followed by two Lamp Escorts – Bev Summerhayes (FNF Scholar and Deputy Head of Nursing for Medicine, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) and Matt Brayford, (FNF Scholar and Mental Health Leadership & Succession Programme Manager, Health Education and Improvement Wales).  They led a procession of other FNF Scholars, followed by student nurses and midwives from the University of Chichester, one of the sponsors of our annual Students’ Day. This element of the Service signifies the transfer of knowledge through the generations.  

Following the Service, a small reception, sponsored by FNF’s strategic partners Nuffield Health, was hosted in the abbey.

For those of you who attended on the day, please donate what you can via our donation page.   Join our 90th anniversary fundraising campaign to raise £90,000 to support 90 student nurses & midwives, 90 early career nurses & midwives and 90 ward leaders & social care nurses. Please help us reach our target by the end of this year. Thank you.

Photos: Copyright Dean and Chapter of Westminster