Florence Nightingale remembered at annual service

Thursday, 16th May 2024

Florence Nightingale Service 2024 - Lamp

A Service to Commemorate the Life of Florence Nightingale was held at Westminster Abbey at 6.30pm on Wednesday 15th May 2024.

The service is held annually to celebrate nursing and midwifery and all staff, both qualified and unqualified, and the importance of supporting one another through challenging times.

'Commitment, compassion and excellence’

The service was conducted by The Right Reverend Anthony Ball, Sub-Dean, who said in his Bidding:


'Today, before God, we gather to offer our praise and thanksgiving, and to recall the life and witness of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Celebrating the work of the Florence Nightingale Foundation and in the good company of working nursing professionals, we acknowledge the legacy of commitment, compassion, and excellence we inherit.
We pray that Florence Nightingale’s determination to improve the quality of care, and secure better training may shape the gift we leave to those who follow us. We praise God for all those nurses who, like her, have carried the lamp of healing into the dark places of our world.’


The Address and readings

The Reverend Nikki Thornhill RN, Royal Naval Chaplaincy Service, gave the Address.

The Right Hon Victoria Atkins MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care read 1 Corinthians 12: 12; 15–18; 23–26; and Dame Ruth May DBE, Chief Nursing Officer, England, read Luke 10: 25–37.


Rolls of Honour

The service included the Procession of the British Commonwealth Nurses’ Roll of Honour, which was borne through the Abbey by Leading Naval Nurse Alicia Castello, Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, escorted by the three Matrons-in-Chief of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. The Roll includes the names of nurses who lost their lives during the Second World War, and is kept in the Florence Nightingale Chapel at the Abbey.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Roll of Honour was also borne through the church. The Roll remembers the nurses, midwives, nursing associates and health care support workers who lost their lives during the pandemic. It was carried by the UK’s Chief Nursing Officers:

  • Dame Ruth May (England)
  • Sue Tranka (Wales)
  • Maria McLlgorm (Northern Ireland)

A lamp, symbolic of Florence Nightingale, was also carried through the Abbey by Scholar Emily Pimm, Social Care Deputy Manager for St Monica’s Trust.

Prayers and music

Prayers were led by the Abbey’s Sacrist, the Reverend Robert Latham, and said by:

  • Professor Gemma Stacey, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Florence Nightingale Foundation
  • Rachael Brown, Infection Prevention Nurse, Nuffield Health, Warwickshire Hospital, and Florence Nightingale Foundation Scholar
  • Wendy Olayiwola, National Maternity Lead at NHS England and NHS Improvement
  • Suresh Packiam, Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Founder of British Indian Nurse Association, and EDI Chair for the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Care Group
  • The Reverend Helena Bickley-Percival

The service was sung by the Westminster Abbey Special Service Choir, conducted by Andrew Nethsingha, Organist & Master of the Choristers. The organ was played by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist, and before the service by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist.

Order of service