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Seacole statue nurse campaigner recognised with award

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A pioneering sickle cell nurse, academic and the driving force behind the campaign to have a statue erected of Mary Seacole has been recognised for her lifetime contribution to the nursing profession.

Professor Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu was last night announced as the recipient of the “lifetime achievement award” at the 2016 Nursing Times Awards in London.

Most recently Professor Anionwu has been known for her tireless work fundraising for the statue of Mary Seacole, which was finally unveiled in London earlier this year.

The erection of the statue in the grounds of St Guy’s and Thomas’ Hospital was the culmination of many years of hard work by Professor Anionwu, who was vice-chair of the statue’s appeal.

She has spent years championing the figure of Mary Seacole as a nursing pioneer and boosting public awareness of her contribution to care during the Crimean War.

However, Professor Anionwu’s nursing career started very differently nearly 53 years ago, when she began to work in the profession as a school nursing assistant in Wolverhampton at the age of 16.

In 1979, she became the first sickle cell and thalassaemia nurse counsellor, and helped establish the first Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening and Counselling Centre, in the UK.

Later, she moved into education and was appointed dean of the school of adult nursing and professor of nursing at the University of West London in 1997.

She has also been a senior lecturer in community genetic counselling at University College London and is currently emeritus professor of nursing at the University of West London.

Her most famous work is A Short History of Mary Seacole: A Resource for Nurses and Students, which was published in 2005, but she has also co-authored books on sickle cell and thalassaemia.

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

This year, she published her memoirs – Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union – which tells the story of her early life as a mixed race child being brought up by nuns, as well as her relationships with her mother and father.

In a speech at the awards ceremony, Professor Anionwu recounted her particular fondness for the “white nun” – who wore a pale habit as opposed to a darker one, because she was a nurse.

It was due to this nun’s kindness and ability to distract her and make her laugh with words like “bottom” while having injections or plasters removed that had inspired her to join the nursing profession, she told the audience at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane.

Professor Anionwu was made a CBE for services to nursing in 2001 and was awarded a Royal College of Nursing Fellowship in 2004. In 2010, she was inducted to the Nursing Times Nursing Hall of Fame for her development of nurse-led services.

She is currently a patron of the Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Association of Nurses Midwives and Allied Professionals, of the Sickle Cell Society, and of the Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association UK.

Her lifetime achievement award was judged by the UK’s four chief nursing officers with Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, which sponsored the award.

  • See below for a full list of this year’s award winners and download the brochure (see attached PDF at bottom of article) to read more about their entries and those of the other finalists.

Nursing Times Award winners for 2016

  • Cancer Nursing – Velindre NHS Trust
  • Care of Older People – North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust
  • Child and Adolescent Services – Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Rising Star – Dionne Levy, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Continence Promotion and Care – ERIC, the children’s bowel and bladder charity
  • Managing Long-term Conditions – Nottinghamshire Health Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Clinical Research Nursing – University Hospitals of North Midlands
  • Surgical Nursing – Stockport NHS Foundation Trust
  • Nurse Leader of the Year – Karen Jordan, Spectrum Community Health CIC
  • Emergency and Critical Care – Tameside NHS Foundation Trust
  • Enhancing Patient dignity – Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust
  • Infection Prevention and Control – Wirral University Teaching Hospital
  • Technology and Data in Nursing – Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Nursing in Mental Health – Saxonbrook Medical Practice
  • Nursing in the Community – National express UK Bus
  • Patient Safety Improvement – NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Respiratory Nursing – Sunderland Royal Hospital
  • Learning Disabilities Nursing – Siron Care and Health CIC
  • HRH The Prince of Wales Award for Integrated Approaches to Care – Hampshire Constabulary and Isle of Wight NHS Trust with Wessex Academic Health Science Network
  • Nurse of the Year – Erin Docherty, Saxonbrook Medical Practice
  • Team of the Year – Barts Health NHS Trust
  • Chief Nursing Officers’ Award for Lifetime Achievement – Elizabeth Anionwu
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Readers' comments (1)

  • Congratulations Elizabeth, a richly deserved honour. You are a credit to our profession.

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