The prime minister and health secretary have taken to social media to thank nurses across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic and honour the achievements of Florence Nightingale, to mark International Nurses’ Day.
In separate videos posted on Twitter, Boris Johnson said the legacy of Florence Nightingale “lies in the remarkable women and men she continues to inspire today”.
“Let’s say a huge thank you to today’s Nightingales – the amazing nurses who care for so many”
While health and social care secretary Matt Hancock encouraged the nation “to stop and reflect and say ‘thank you’” to the profession for their efforts during the current crisis.
This year’s International Nurses’ Day represents the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, which inspired the World Health Organization to dedicate 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
Leaders from across the profession have paid tribute to nurses throughout the UK and have also vowed to ensure those who lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic “will never be forgotten”.
In his own tribute, Mr Johnson highlighted the birthday of Florence Nightingale who went on to “change the world forever”.
“She revolutionised Victorian healthcare, establishing principles that stand to this day,” he said.
“She changed and shaped the very perception of what a nurse is, what a nurse should be, transforming the job into what she called “the finest of fine arts” and in so doing she saved lives, not just in her own lifetime and her own country, but for decades to come and in every corner of the globe.”
He noted the temporary Covid-19 hospitals that had been named in her honour and cited traditions of other countries such as India, which honours its most exceptional nurse with a Florence Nightingale Award every year.
Mr Johnson added: “But Nightingale’s true legacy lies not in awards and buildings, it lies in the remarkable women and men she continues to inspire today.
“And while much has changed in medicine since Florence’s time, she would walk into one of our wonderful NHS hospitals today, and I have no doubt that she would recognise in an instant, the dedication, the compassion and incredible skill of nurses on duty.”
He encouraged the public to take some time today to remember the pioneer of modern nursing.
“So, today, let’s all take a moment to remember Florence Nightingale and all she achieved,” the prime minister said.
“And let’s also say a huge thank you, once again, to today’s Nightingales – the amazing nurses who do so much and who care for so many.
“Just as your famous predecessor carried her fanoos lamp as she walked the wards at night, so you continue to cast light on the darkest moments of our lives. For that we owe you more than words can say.”
On #InternationalNursesDay, I pay tribute to Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern nursing, who was born 200 years ago today.
Thank you to all of our amazing nurses in the UK who are taking care of us, especially in this very difficult time. You are the very best of us. pic.twitter.com/nCyCbeoWSQ
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) May 12, 2020
Meanwhile, in a separate video, Mr Hancock said: “Today is International Nurses’ Day and it is a moment for us all to stop and reflect and say thank you to nurses working here and right around the world, especially at these times with coronavirus at large.
“We all know just how valuable nursing is,” he said, adding that his grandmother was a nurse and so he had seen first-hand both the value and hardship of the profession.
“My grandmother was a nurse, and I learned about nursing at her knee and I saw for myself how much she valued what she did and how much she got out of it, but also how hard she worked and how hard it was on her,” he said.
“In these unprecedented times, I think the whole world is appreciating that fact and I am glad of it,” the health secretary said.
Above all, Mr Hancock said he wanted to thank those in the profession and also to ensure they knew how valued that are.
“Most of all I want to say thank you to all the nurses that we have in the NHS and right across the UK for the work that you’re doing, which is so hard, so compassionate and so rewarding,” he said.
“As health secretary, I want to make sure you know just how valued you are,” said Mr Hancock, who has recently faced calls to improve nurse pay as recognition for their efforts during the Covid-19 crisis.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) May 12, 2020
The tributes comes as the government published its Covid-1 recovery strategy which outlines the plans for returning life to “as close to normal as possible”.
Under the strategy, the government said it “remains committed” to its 50,000 more nurses pledge from its manifesto last year.
The plan said: “The government remains committed to delivering its manifesto, including to building 40 new hospitals, reforming social care, recruiting and retaining 50,000 more nurses and creating 50 million new GP surgery appointments.”
Nursing Times contacted the Department of Health and Social Care to clarify if the nurses who had signed up to the new Covid-19 temporary register would be counted as part of the 50,000 total, but it did not yet respond.