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Nurses come together to ‘celebrate and reflect’ at Westminster Abbey service

Nurses come together to ‘celebrate and reflect’ at Westminster Abbey service
Social care nurse and FNF scholar Emily Pimm led the lamp procession. Image Credit: Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey.

The Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) hosted its annual service in Westminster Abbey last night, with a social care nurse carrying the iconic FNF lamp for the very first time.

The lamp, which has been used in the service since 1970, was carried through the abbey by Emily Pimm, an FNF scholar and social care nurse at St Monica Trust in Bristol.

Nurses from across different settings and sectors filled the rows of Westminster Abbey, alongside chief nursing officers (CNOs) and MPs, for an evening to honour nursing.

Professor Greta Westwood chief executive of FNF, 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.

‘It is such a unique opportunity for reflection and to thank nurses and midwives for the difference they make to people’s lives.’

She added that it was ‘more important than ever’ to recognise the ‘many and diverse roles and backgrounds’ that make the nursing and midwifery professions part of ‘a global community’.

Guests included diplomats from the Philippines, Kenya and Ghana; the secretary of state for health and social care, Victoria Atkins; chief executive officer of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard; and CNO for England Dame Ruth May.

Dame Ruth was part of the procession presenting the Pandemic Roll of Honour, which was introduced in 2022 and is dedicated to all nurses, midwives, nursing associates and nurse support workers who provided care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking on her role in the service Dame Ruth 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.’

She added: ‘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.’

She was joined by Sue Tranka, CNO for Wales, Katy Rennick, deputy chief nursing officer for Northern Ireland, and Professor Jacqui Reilly, director of nursing and executive lead for NHS National Services Scotland, who all took part in the procession.

The Commonwealth Roll of Honour, which commemorate nurses who lost their lives on active service in the Second World War, was also carried through the abbey by a military nurse.

This year marked the 59th annual commemoration service, which took place in the charity’s 90th anniversary year.

The event saw over 2,000 nurses from the UK and international nursing community come together to champion nursing, recognising the challenges that face the increasingly exhausted sector.

Speaking to Nursing in Practice ahead of the ceremony, Sukie Gill, a lead critical care nurse in Kent, spoke of the joy of nursing and described the event as a ‘great opportunity to appreciate what nursing is all about’.

‘It’s always a privilege to be able to care for the people that other people love,’ she said.


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