October 21, 2021

Celebrating Black History Month

Celebrating Black History Month

As an agency we have an incredibly diverse workforce, especially within our nurse team. To celebrate black history month, we thought we'd look back on the history of black nurses in the UK and how they continue to play such a vital role in the healthcare sector.

Following the end of the second world war, the British government asked countries within the commonwealth to emigrate to the UK to help re-build the country. Kofoworola Abeni Pratt was one of the first workers to answer the call for help.

Kofoworola was the first black nurse to work within the National Health Service in 1950. Born in Nigeria, Kofoworala came over the UK in 1946 – she studied at the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St Thomas Hospital in London. It is widely believed there were black Nurses working in the UK before this time but British Hospitals didn’t keep a records of staff ethnicity.In 1973, Kofoworala was eventually awarded the highest honour for a registered Nurse, the Florence Nightingale award. She was also made a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing in 1979. She worked in the NHS for 4 years before returning to Nigeria in 1954, where she became Chief Nursing Officer and the first black woman to become the vice president of the International Council of Nurses.

Kofoworola was able to break down barriers and become an inspiration for future generations of Nurses. In 1954, there was more than 3000 Caribbean woman training in UK Hospitals. Today 1 in 5 Nurses and Midwives are from Black or other ethnic backgrounds.

 Timeline of notable black Nurses in the UK
  • 1964 - Daphne Steele was appointed the first Black Matron in the UK.
  • 1985 – 88 - Professor Justus Akinsanya was appointed the first black Nursing Professor at the Dorset Institute in 1985. Later, she was the first black nurse on the English National Board for Nursing and Midwifery.
  • 1990 - Nola Ishmael was appointed as the first black private secretary at the Department of Health.
  • 2001 - The Royal College of Nursing appointed its first black General Secretary, Dr Beverley Malone.
  • 2011 – Nursing union Unison appointed its first black president, Eleanor Smith.


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