Royal College of Nursing Representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice, shaping health policies

Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the NHS and the celebration of Windrush

For this issue we reached out to the RCN Executive Nurse Network membership, please find below a series of opinion pieces of the NHS 70th anniversary and Windrush

Dr Jane Padmore, Executive Director of Quality and Safety (Chief Nurse), Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust 

My mother-in-law came to the UK from Jamaica in the 1950s to nurse. She worked full time and continuously in nursing at St George’s Hospital in Tooting until her retirement when she reached her mid-60s. I have been nursing since 1990 and have been an executive nurse for 2 years. Our experiences of nursing is, in some ways, vastly different. The one thing that runs through both of us, that binds us together as nurses are our values and philosophy of nursing that cares and puts the service user at the centre of what we do and decisions we make. I am proud to be in the same profession as her!

Emer Martin, Interim Deputy CEO/Director of Nursing, St John’s Hospital, Limerick, Ireland

The commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Windrush citizens to the UK in the same year that the NHS celebrates its70th birthday can be considered remarkably good timing and an opportunity for reflection.

Learning that the NHS had been established shortly after the Windrush generation arrived in the UK came as little surprise to me. Throughout my career, from being a newly qualified staff nurse to director of nursing, I have been surrounded by role models to guide, inspire and encourage me to go further in my endeavours and give the very best I can to patients. 

Many of my role models originated from the Caribbean and West Indian countries and  I never had to look hard to identify these great leaders and champions for the nursing profession; the staff nurse on the neurosurgical ward in a district general hospital who led others with calm and efficiency, even in adverse situations; the ward sister on the Neuroscience Unit who demonstrated excellent care planning and organisational skills; the theatre manager who preserved the utmost level of safety and dignity for all patients in her care; the head of nursing who accepted nothing less than the best from her team in delivering the highest standards of patient experience.

I am very grateful to all the visionaries and great leaders who inspired me during my twenty seven years of working in the NHS. I would not be where I am without you.

Kelly Bishop, Head of Nursing, NHS Transformation Unit

It’s fair to say that so far, my career has been pretty eclectic, some have stated without direction even and that I show no commitment to a clear career direction. I understand why some may perceive this. I have in the past had the ambition to be a Director of Nursing, Director of Operations and Director of Strategy. Undecided this maybe, but in my opinion the fact that that my experience would allow me to pursue either of these surely should be considered a positive attribute? 

Until recently I have carried the belief, imposed by others, that being a ‘Jack of all Trades’, is career limiting. As I venture into the next step of my career journey I seek to disagree. Perhaps now with the support of my present employer do I only just feel strong enough to stand up to this.

In today’s challenging and rapidly changing climate having nurses who have broad experiences accompanied by the passion to ensure that the patient is at the centre of all they do, is exactly the type of leader needed for the future. Nurses lead through compassion, this is a leadership style that should be embraced in the new world of integrated care systems, integrated care partnerships and accountable care systems. The unique attributes that nurses bring need to be understood and appreciated as system executive teams are readily forming across the county. 

Presently I work as Head of Nursing for the NHS Transformation Unit. I don’t manage nurses or care for patients in the direct sense, I don’t even have any decision-making rights or budget. I work to support local clinical teams to design transformed services across a regional footprint; I advise and prompt; spend time to understand; champion the consideration of the whole person in the design process; and promote the role of nurses and care professional in the delivery of future care.  I add compassion into the transformation process.

The work that I do influences and informs the care and experiences that entire populations will receive over the future decades, it will even save lives. My name will not be on the paper and I won’t present it as my own, but I am proud to be able to do what I do. I am proud to be a nurse, to be at the forefront of change and proud to bring a varied career to the table. 

For change to be truly transformational the end point is yet to evolve but it will be significant. I am happy to follow this theory in nursing career so long as it feels right, hopefully more nurses will feel brave enough to venture with me into the unknown. 

Andy Cook, Chief Nurse, Interserve Healthcare

As the NHS turns 70 it is rightly a time to celebrate the achievements and successes of a service that has met the needs of the nation over several generations. Nursing makes up the largest professional community within the NHS and, more widely, across health and social care. It is easy to talk about one profession being the ‘back bone’, or another ‘at the heart of’, the system, but it is difficult to envisage any of our health or care services operating without the nursing profession acting as not only the deliverer of high quality care but also as the glue that holds the system together.

There are 690,000 nurses and midwives on the NMC register, but only 300,000 of these work directly within the NHS, less than half. Whilst the value of nursing within the NHS is, quite rightly, recognized and lauded by the public, the role of nursing outside the NHS is less often recognized. 

The wider health and care system in the country is supported by nurses in many different environments, many of whom work in services that directly support the NHS and the care of people it provides for. These services may involve long-term social care, support for surgical waiting lists or enabling people with long-term complex healthcare needs to live as independently as they can.

We must also recognize the value of nursing in the wholly independent care environment, providing expert patient-focused care to people who have chosen to fund it themselves, whether in hospital, home or care home establishments. Whilst there can be a healthy political or ideological debate about the rights or wrongs of this, those patients are people who deserve the same level of compassionate nursing care as each and every NHS funded patient.

So I do not think we should contextualise our celebration of the NHS purely in terms of NHS nursing. Nursing is a bigger community, the majority of us borne out of the NHS at some stage in our careers. Moving into other nursing environments does not mean a turning away from the principles or values of the NHS, indeed it often continues to promote those values by providing services that support and deliver the NHS objective.

However, wherever you find nursing you will find committed and dedicated care that puts the individual first and this, arguably, makes the model of funding for the person whose life we touch, very much a secondary concern. The NHS is amazing and I am proud to have learnt, developed and progressed as a result of the training it gave me; but I am proud also to lead nurses and care staff outside the NHS who work every day to support patients who rely on the NHS for their care, dignity and quality of life. Nursing and the NHS are forever entwined, whether in it or supporting it, and that is truly something to celebrate.

Anne-Maria Newham MBE, Director of Nursing/AHPs and Quality, Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust

As a nurse of 36 years I have seen so many changes, from the use of technology to how we are now trained. I don’t wish for the ‘old days’ and I certainly avoid wearing ‘rose coloured tinted glasses’, I’m happy to embrace the future. I feel a real sense of responsibility to ensure the next generation are both supported but have the organisational memories we all hold. I’m lucky enough to have supported my daughter to become a midwife recently. As an executive nurse on a provider Board I know my role is to represent every voice that cannot be there in person. I know I’m not representative, but I seek to address this in many ways by embracing difference and championing inclusivity. To be a nurse also means to represent ‘Nursing’ in a wider sense from external conversations, to being an advocate and an ambassador. This year I’ve been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for my contribution to Nursing and will be receiving an MBE which am thrilled and a little overwhelmed too. 

Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Chief Nurse and Interim Regional Director (London), Health Education England 

As part of our NHS 70 celebrations, HEE has launched an initiative with the Florence Nightingale Foundation to honour the huge contribution which the Windrush generation has made to the NHS.

HEE is funding a bespoke leadership development programme for 70 nurses and midwives, bands 5, 6, 7 from all BME backgrounds, to develop as future leaders of healthcare, and improve healthcare and patient outcomes.

The supporting aim of this initiative is to celebrate those who arrived on HV Empire MS Windrush. Windrush nurses and midwives were, and their descendants remain, major contributors to the NHS workforce.

Applications have been invited from nurses and midwives working in the NHS across England, who are either descendants of the Windrush generation or working in these communities. Two cohorts of 35 will be supported onto the programme.

Nurses who have taken part in previous FNF leadership programmes say it was a “life changing” experience in its professional and personal impact. They report feeling more confident to speak out and influence improvements in patient care and health outcomes.

Page last updated - 03/08/2019