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Legacy of Windrush nurses celebrated

The contribution of nurses who arrived from the Caribbean to work in the NHS in the post-war era was marked at an event at London's St Thomas' Hospital
Empire Windrush

Nurses gathered at Londons St Thomas Hospital to mark the day in June 1948 when the liner Empire Windrush arrived in England with the first cohort of West Indian nurses who had responded to a call to work in the newly created NHS.

The event, which was held yesterday evening and attended by nurses and other healthcare workers, was organised by NHS England to celebrate the contribution and legacy of the ships Caribbean passengers.

Emeritus professor of nursing at the University of West London and vice chair of the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal Elizabeth Anionwu and the first black nursing officer at the Department of Health (DH) Nola Ishmael recalled their own early days in the NHS.

Ms Ishmael said a combination of midnight oil, midday toil and constant learning were the grounds for her success. I want to see an NHS where equality is the watchword

Nurses gathered at London‘s St Thomas’ Hospital to mark the day in June 1948 when the liner Empire Windrush arrived in England with the first cohort of West Indian nurses who had responded to a call to work in the newly created NHS.

The event, which was held yesterday evening and attended by nurses and other healthcare workers, was organised by NHS England to celebrate the contribution and legacy of the ship’s Caribbean passengers.

Emeritus professor of nursing at the University of West London and vice chair of the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal Elizabeth Anionwu and the first black nursing officer at the Department of Health (DH) Nola Ishmael recalled their own early days in the NHS.

Ms Ishmael said a combination of ‘midnight oil, midday toil and constant learning’ were the grounds for her success. ‘I want to see an NHS where equality is the watchword not the in-word,’ she said.

England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) Jane Cummings said: ’I want to see a black or minority ethnic (BME) chief nurse before too long’.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, who also spoke at the event, acknowledged that the NHS was not always the best employer but said he wanted to tackle the systemic difference in the treatment of BME and non-BME staff.

‘We have to use the talents of everyone working for the NHS; we need to talent-spot senior nurses, offer them opportunities to play the national stage, and appointment panels need to be mindful of the biases and barriers that can affect their task.’

See a photo gallery of nurses celebrating the Empire Windrush anniversary

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