Tributes paid to a proud pioneer of agency nursing

Jean Higgins ran an early nurse recruitment agency set up for the benefit of the NHS

Jean Higgins ran an early nurse recruitment agency set up for the benefit of the NHS

The then princess Elizabeth meets young nurse Jean Currie at the premiere of The Lady
with the Lamp, the 1951 film about the life of Florence Nightingale

A nurse who pioneered one of the UK’s first nursing recruitment agencies has died aged 91.

Jean Higgins had been asked by the then secretary of state for social services Sir Keith Joseph to help provide the health service with its own nursing recruitment agency. As a result, London and Provincial Nursing Services (LPNS) was established as a non-profit agency in 1974.

By the time she retired, in 1993, there were 10,000 nurses on the agency's books and 30 offices around the UK.

‘A very special lady who made an important contribution to nursing’

Jean Higgins 'knew what it was
to serve'

In a letter to Jean Higgins's daughter Jane Gang, RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair paid tribute to a ‘very special lady who made a really important contribution to nursing’.

'She recognised agency working was here to stay and was determined to develop a system that worked for both nurses and hospitals,' the letter continues.

When LPNS was dissolved in 1997, £1.45 million donated to the RCN for the refurbishment of its London headquarters, and in particular the college’s library.

Professor Kinnair said Jean Higgins made ‘a very significant contribution to the RCN as it is today’.

Jean Higgins (née Currie) grew up in Darlington, county Durham and by the time she was 17 knew she wanted to train as a nurse. She qualified from University College Hospital in London.

In 1952, having worked there for a few years as an SRN (state-registered nurse), she met and married Peter Higgins, a doctor at the hospital.

The couple moved to Staffordshire and had four children, Nick, Anthony, David and Jane.

She embraced the recruitment agency role

Jean Higgins set up her own successful nursery school in the area before moving back to London, where she joined a recruitment company for nurses working on cruise liners.

Friends said she took to this role ‘like a duck to water’ and five years later she was invited to run LPNS.

Ms Gang recalls: ‘When she retired from LPNS, she just did not want to leave. Everyone worked in such a well-run, happy and family-orientated environment.

‘She was so proud to be a nurse and to be part of a generation who really knew what it was to serve and care for others.’

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