Press Release

The Nurse Behind the Mask campaign honours BAME contribution on NHS Birthday 

The Florence Nightingale Foundation releases special collage of nurses and midwives working on the frontline during COVID-19 to mark the 72nd birthday of the NHS

The collection of photos comprising of NHS BAME nurses and midwives has been created to honour the diversity of the health sector and pay special tribute to the many nationalities that make up the rich cultural tapestry of the NHS.

The Foundation, established in memory of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, runs leadership programmes for all NHS and healthcare nurses and midwives. The Foundation is renowned for empowering BAME nurses and midwives. In 2019/20  43% of participants were from a BAME background.

In 2018 the Foundation created the Windrush Leadership Programme, in partnership with Health Education England, for nurses and midwives who are descendants of the Windrush Generation and other BAME NHS nurses and midwives. The purpose of the programme is to empower BAME staff and equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to pursue senior roles. The Foundation is in the third year of running the popular and heavily oversubscribed programme.

Professor Greta Westwood, CEO of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, pointed out that we mustn’t forget the important role that BAME nurses and midwives had in the creation and hence the history of the NHS and that we must continue to support and develop them in our health systems.

The BAME nursing and midwifery contribution to the NHS extends beyond the Windrush Generation. The NHS since its foundation has welcomed nationalities from across the world, actively recruiting a large majority of nurses and midwives from South Asia and the Philippines.

Professor Greta Westwood said: “The NHS has been built on the shoulders of immigrants and at the Foundation we wanted to celebrate this history with this special photography project. The Nurse Behind the Mask is multicultural – made up of a number of nationalities from across the world, making the NHS so special. The collection of photographs celebrates BAME nurses and midwives who are integrated into the fabric of the NHS.”

“On the birthday of the NHS this Sunday 5th July, the Foundation is encouraging BAME nurses and midwives to share selfies across social media wearing masks, with the hashtag #NurseBehindTheMask or #MidwifeBehindTheMask in celebration of the many nationalities that make up the NHS. We encourage all non-BAME nurses and midwives to join in and  to show solidarity with their BAME colleagues.”

Arlene Wellman, who took part in the montage and is Chief Nurse, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, and a Florence Nightingale Scholar said: “I am proud of my heritage and especially proud to be a nurse working in the NHS.  I am inspired by the great nurses I work with and humbled by their dedication to delivering great care to every patient every day.”

“The people we care for and the people who I work with are from every race, ethnicity and heritage. We need to celebrate our diversity, support equality and commit to being anti-racist in all aspects of what we do.”

Yvonne Coghill, Deputy President of the Royal College of Nursing said: “The contribution of people of colour to the NHS is immeasurable – we have seen the commitment, professionalism and determination that people of all races have made since this unprecedented pandemic started earlier this year. This commitment should and must be commended and celebrated everyday but especially on the 72nd birthday of the NHS on July 5th.”

“The Nurse behind the mask represents all of us and we must never forget what people of colour have done for the NHS since its inception in 1948. All nurses and midwives regardless of where in the world they hail from, stand on the shoulders of giants from all nationalities and need to be lauded and applauded for the amazing and vital work they do.”

The Foundation launched the Florence Nightingale White Rose Appeal in May, to provide much needed emotional support and advice to nurses and midwives whilst working on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 


More details about the Florence Nightingale White Rose Appeal can be found on the link here.



For more information please contact: 

Aysha Awan, Director of Communications, Florence Nightingale Foundation

Mobile: 07974 666 815 / Email: [email protected]

Notes to editors 

The Florence Nightingale Foundation: The aim of the Foundation since it was founded in 1929 is to empower its scholars to become great nursing and midwifery leaders, honouring Florence’s legacyThe Foundation offers three types of Scholarships: Leadership, Research and Travel.

The FNF Leadership Scholars are awarded as a 12-month bespoke scholarship programme, including leadership development. Our travel scholars access valuable training and development in the UK and overseas. Our scholarships have an excellent record of delivery; all scholars undertake projects focused on improving patient care and health outcomes. Within two years the majority are promoted to more senior roles as a result of their scholarship. We also offer a 6-month leadership programme for early-career nurses and midwives. Our scholarship and leadership programme offer is unique. Applications are competitive and they are highly sought after, with an excellent record of delivery and career development.

More details about the Windrush Leadership Programme can be found on the link here.

Left to right on the image:

Denise Baidoo – North Middlesex University Hospital, Arlene Lee – NIHR Hosted by University Hospitals Southampton, Ethel Mumba – Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Chitra Sanjel – West Middlesex Hospital ICU, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Josiane Mopo Wambo – North Middlesex University Hospital

Second row left to right on the image:

Laletha Agoramoorthy – Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Azucena Delacruz – King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Arlene Wellman – Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, Rebecca Gilbert – Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Emily Kinyanjui – Central and North West London Nhs Foundation Trust

Third row left to right on the image:

Marlo Tacanay – King George Hospital, Hazel Joy Jimenez – King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Ross Anderson – Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Mary Kambafwile – Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Mandeep Lally – Royal Derby Hospital

Fourth row left to right on the image:

Kendra Schneller – Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Nayol Santos – The Whittington Hospital, Nhat Mendoza – Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Nicola Johnson – Whipps Cross Hospital Barts Health NHS Trust, Mildred Musami – King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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