Prime Minister attends Abbey Nightingale service

Wednesday, 12th May 2021

Prime Minister attends Abbey Nightingale service

The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP, attended a service to commemorate the life of Florence Nightingale at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 12th May 2021.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Right Honourable Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who, afterwards, laid a white rose at the Abbey’s Innocent Victims Memorial by the Great West Door in memory of those who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The service is held annually with the Florence Nightingale Foundation to celebrate nursing and midwifery and all staff in both professions. This year’s service also recognised the outstanding contribution of nurses and midwives to the nation throughout the pandemic.

The service was also attended by Helen Whately MP, Minister for Care; Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Health Secretary; and the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Jonathan Glanz.

The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who said in his Bidding:

Coming to this place in a time of pandemic we bring memories of suffering and loss, we remember the courage and resilience that has been needed and found. We acknowledge the challenge of long months of isolation and the love that refuses to be imprisoned.
We look around us in gratitude for the effort so may have made to bring us to a place of greater safety and yet grieve for those in communities still devastated by illness and grief. We pray in the midst of a pandemic, acknowledging both an effort made, and an effort ahead. We do that as we honour the memory of Florence Nightingale in whom compassion and care had the power to deliver not just healing, but change.

Helena Bonham Carter, actor and a descendant of Florence Nightingale, read Isaiah 61: 1–4; and the Prime Minister read Matthew 25: 31-40.

The Address was given by the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London and Dean of the Chapels Royal. 

Over the last year nurses, midwives and health visitors across the world have been a sign of hope. You have rolled up your sleeves and given of yourselves more than either we or you would have imagined, and we are profoundly thankful.

During the service the British Commonwealth Nurses’ Roll of Honour was borne in silence to the Sacrarium and placed near the High Altar by Captain Lisa Taylor QHN, Head of the Royal Naval Nursing Service and Chief Nursing Officer, Navy.

A lamp, symbolic of Florence Nightingale, was carried through the Abbey and placed on the High Altar by Ruheana Begum, a Florence Nightingale Scholar and a Matron at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation.

Watch the Service

You can watch the entire service on demand until Sunday 13th June 2021.

Listen to the Sermon

About Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is remembered as the founder of modern nursing, celebrated for the pioneering care she gave to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. In 1860, she established the first secular nursing school in the world, at St Thomas' Hospital in London.

In her honour, International Nurses Day is celebrated each year on 12th May, the anniversary of her birth.

In 2010, one hundred years after her death, the Abbey's Nurses' Memorial Chapel was re-dedicated in her memory. The chapel, designed by Sebastian Comper, was set up in 1950 to remember all those in the nursing professions from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth who died during the Second World War.

White Rose

Florence Nightingale famously wore Floris White Rose perfume and had bottles shipped out to her during her time in the Crimea war.

A white rose symbolises new beginnings and in 2020 the Florence Nightingale White Rose Appeal was launched by the Florence Nightingale Foundation to show support and gratitude to nurses and midwives.

Members of the public are invited to thank nurses and midwives by donating to the Florence Nightingale White Rose Appeal.

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