The Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service - 2024 news

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The Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service is an important day in the annual FNF calendar and, indeed, for nursing and midwifery communities worldwide, as we come together to give thanks and to celebrate nurses and midwives everywhere who continue Florence Nightingale’s legacy today. But what happens at the service, taking place this year on 15 May, and why is it such a special event?  

Since 1965, Florence Nightingale Foundation has hosted this annual service in Westminster Abbey. It has been cancelled only once in 59 years, in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2023 the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla in Westminster Abbey required the service to be relocated to St Paul’s Cathedral. This year it is once again taking place in Westminster Abbey.

Central to the Commemoration Service is the lamp. Florence Nightingale was known as “The Lady with The Lamp” as she made her rounds at night tending to the soldiers wounded in the Crimean War.

During this service, a burning lamp will be carried through the Abbey by a chosen FNF Scholar. It will be placed on the altar to represent ‘the undying spirit of the service displayed by Florence Nightingale’, demonstrated by nurses and midwives today. The current lamp was first used for the service in 1970, the 150th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The Lamp Carrier will be followed by two Lamp Escorts, who lead a procession of other esteemed Scholars of the Foundation, followed by student nurses and midwives. This signifies the transfer of nursing and midwifery knowledge to future nurses and midwives.  

We are delighted to reveal to you this year’s Lamp Carrier and the two Lamp Escorts, chosen from our recently graduated FNF Scholars. Hear how they are feeling in the days leading up to the service:

“I feel very honoured to be the Lamp Carrier at the 59th Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service.  I’m so proud to represent Social Care Nurses, and to celebrate what has been an exciting and pivotal year for this sector. The FNF Leadership Scholarship and Social Care Nursing Advisory Council (SCNAC) Programme has helped me to grow in many ways, as well as fuelling my passion to raise the voice, and elevate the visibility of Social Care Nurses – to continue building a positive future for Social Care.” Emily Pimm, Social Care Deputy Manager, St Monica Trust

“It is an enormous honour to be escorting the lamp at the 59th commemorative ceremony. This service provides an opportunity to reflect on the resilience and service of Florence Nightingale and those that followed her right up to our current challenging times. For me, it is also an opportunity to remember the fabulous leaders and peers that have shaped me over the last 30 years into the nurse and leader I am today. Most recently these have included the inspirational fellow Scholars and mentors that have made participation in the Foundation’s emerging leaders scholarship programme such a rich opportunity for growth and collaboration.Bev Summerhayes, Deputy Head of Nursing, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

“I feel so honoured to be chosen as one of the escorts to the lamp at the 2024 Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service. It feels like the perfect end to the incredible journey I have been on as an FNF Digital Leadership Scholar. The confidence I have gained has enabled me to trust my ideas and vision for mental health services and has given me a platform to create real change. I am determined to continue to use this platform to improve services for staff, patients and carers, through enabling the development compassionate cultures in the NHS. Thank you FNF, and all those people and organisations who enabled me, and supported me on this journey!” Matt Brayford, ealth Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW)

We will also remember nurses and midwives named in two rolls of honour. 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 will be carried through the Abbey by the Chief Nursing Officers and representatives of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The Commonwealth Roll of Honour, introduced in 1965, 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 will be carried in silence through the Abbey by a military nurse and escorted by the Chief Nursing Officers of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force. Both Rolls of Honour are kept in the Florence Nightingale and Nurses’ Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

In addition to observing these historic and poignant processions, our 2,000 guests will hear reflections, biddings and prayers read by Officers and friends of the charity.

We welcome global and UK based representatives from across all nursing and midwifery organisations and communities to the service, 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. 

We host an FNF Students’ Day that same day: a unique opportunity for student nurses and midwives from across the UK to network with peers and established leaders, learn from our educational programme, participate in debates, and celebrate our professions. Students then attend the Commemoration Service. Highlighting again the importance of the transfer of knowledge and innovation from one generation to the next. 

Greta Westwood

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. The music is exquisite, moving and provides peace in our busy days, such a unique opportunity for reflection.

This year’s Lamp Carrier and Escorts represent the many nurses and midwives who have completed FNF programmes since 12th May last year. Their names will be added to the new Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service “The Lamp Procession” book. We have identified the names of nearly all Lamp Carriers and Escorts since 1969 but we are missing the names of those between 1965-1968. If you were involved in a service since 1965 we would love to hear from you, your stories would indeed make this book come alive.” Professor Greta Westwood CBE, CEO, Florence Nightingale Foundation

The event is an opportunity to gather to pause, reflect, and rededicate ourselves to the professions in the 204th anniversary year of Florence Nightingale’s birth on 12th May 1820. We give thanks to all nurses and midwives everywhere. 

For those of you attending on the day, we very much look forward to welcoming you to Westminster Abbey. The event is free to attend and, as a charity, we are asking those attending help us to support the next generation of nursing and midwifery leaders, by donating what they can, either via the collection organised by military student nurses at the end of the service, or via our donation page. 

The event is sponsored by Nuffield Health, a strategic partner to FNF.