Nursing and midwifery leaders have shared their thoughts and condolences following the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday.
Britain’s longest ever reigning monarch had been a champion and patron for nurses across the country in her 7o years on the throne, and tributes have poured in to celebrate her life and work.
Nursing in Practice spoke to several nurses who received honours from the Queen in her final platinum Jubilee birthday honours to hear their reflections on her life of service.
Professor John Unsworth, chair of the QNI council, was awarded on OBE by Her Majesty in her last set of Birthday honours in June 2022.
Originally founded through a £70,000 grant from Queen Victoria in 1887, the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) came under the royal patronage of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 after the death of the Queen Mother.
During her time as the institute’s patron, the Queen approved the reintroduction of the Queen’s Nurse title in 2007 and welcomed many Queen’s Nurses to Buckingham Palace garden parties. In 2012, her Diamond Jubilee year, the QNI presented Queen Elizabeth II with the Gold Badge of the institute, the institutes’ highest honour.
‘The Institute’s staff, trustees and I as Chair were greatly saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty,’ said Professor Unsworth. ‘She supported the Institute to recognise and reward excellent nursing care through the reintroduction of the Queen’s Nurse title in 2007 and the continuation, in perpetuity of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother’s Award for Outstanding Service.’
Following the Queen’s funeral the Royal College of Midwives, another institute with a Royal Charter, awarded by Queen Elizabeth’s father George VI, also shared their thoughts.
Gill Walton CBE, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, also received a title in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee birthday honours this year.
She told Nursing in Practice that ‘We are deeply saddened by the death of HM The Queen. Our thoughts are with HM The King, our Patron HRH The Princess Royal, and the whole royal family at what is a deeply sad time in their lives, and in the life of the country.
‘In many ways, the Queen has been the mother of the nation and an inspiration to us all as midwives and maternity support workers for her steadfastness, her devotion to duty, and her leadership. These are qualities we all seek to emulate in our professional lives.
‘When my appointment as CBE was announced as part of the Platinum Jubilee honours earlier this year, it was the proudest day of my career, and indeed, of my life. Her loss will be felt deeply by me, by those in the NHS and indeed by the whole nation.’
Comments following the Queen’s funeral also came from Health Education England (HEE), which oversees the training of nurses in the UK, and whose chief nurse Professor Mark Radford also received a CBE in 2022.
A representative for HEE said that ‘we join with people across HEE and the NHS in mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II. She has been a constant presence in all our lives and our thoughts are with her family and friends.’
However, the Queen not only gave honours to nurses with more public facing roles, such as the heads of organisations, but also to those who work on the frontlines of providing and improving care.
Sharon Aldridge-Bent is director of nursing programmes, leadership, at the QNI and a specialist in palliative and end of life care.
Mrs Aldridge-Bent shared her thoughts following the Queen’s funeral: ‘As a Queen’s Nurse, I feel so privileged to have been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours for community nursing. This feels like a real moment in history.
‘My heart is full of pride and sadness in her passing.’