The event – held at RCN Headquarters - marked the end of a 20 year career at the RCN in which Bernell started out as a regional officer in 1998, later becoming the RCN’s Diversity Advisor and then Regional Director in 2005.
Bernell's nursing career spanned 44 years and saw him work across cardio-thoracic and intensive care nursing and later in mental health. In leading the London region Bernell made the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda a top priority and oversaw the transformation of the membership into one that is properly reflective of the nursing workforce in London with 50 per cent from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Throughout his career, Bernell remained committed to charitable work, holding the position of Trustee at the Victoria Climbe Foundation as well as the Mary Seacole Trust. One of Bernell’s proudest moments was to see the statue of the pioneering nurse erected outside St Thomas’ hospital in 2016.
At the farewell event, RCN General Secretary Janet Davies, Barts’ Chief Nurse Caroline Alexander, Dame Elizabeth Anionwu and RCN President Cecilia Anim were amongst a number of people who paid tribute to Bernell, in particular the work he has done in advocating for black and minority ethnic nurses.
Bernell has been succeeded in the region by Operational Manager Jude Diggins, who takes up the post of Regional Director with immediate effect.
RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary Janet Davies, said:
“With over fourteen years directing the RCN’s work in London, our members across the capital could not have wished for a stronger advocate. Bernell has been a dynamic leader in very difficult times for the nursing profession.
“For twenty years, Bernell has served the RCN and its members at every level – from being a steward and branch chair right through to senior staff – and always does so with a cool head and a cheerful smile. He finished his career with a typically strong and fruitful campaign to boost pay for our members in the NHS and that will be part of his legacy.
“Bernell’s colleagues and friends here wish him the very best for the excitement, fresh challenges and a well-deserved rest ahead.”