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Raft of top nurses recognised with new year honours

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A leading academic in older people’s care and the driving force behind the Mary Seacole statue campaign are among the nurses to have been recognised in the 2017 new year honours list.

Professor Caroline Leigh Watkins, an expert in stroke and older people’s care at Central Lancashire University, and Professor Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu, who helped set up the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal, have both been made dames.

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

Professor Anionwu, who is also an emeritus professor at the University of West London, ran the first UK nurse-led sickle/thalassaemia screening and genetic counselling service.

However, she is probably best known for campaigning for recognition for Mary Seacole, the Crimean War nursing pioneer, which culminated in the unveiling of a statue in her honour in 2016.

Commenting on her award, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Peter John, said: “This is a welcome and well deserved recognition of the valuable and enduring contribution Professor Anionwu has made to the nursing profession and nursing education. We are very proud of her achievements and extend our heartfelt congratulations to her.”

Professor Watkins, the UK’s only stroke care professor, has been a nurse for nearly 40 years and has worked at the University of Central Lancashire for 15 years. Most recently she co-led the UK arm of an international study into acute stroke care called HeadPost, one of the largest trials of nursing care in the world.

Commenting on her award, Professor Watkins said: “When I got the letter I couldn’t believe it. I thought it couldn’t be real. I can’t quite get my head around it.”

The government’s 2017 honours list, unveiled yesterday, also includes two respected directors of nursing and two well-known nursing union leaders, as well as other members of the nursing and midwifery professions.

Cecilia Anim, recently re-elected president of the Royal College of Nursing has been named a CBE, while Gail Adams, Unison’s long-serving head of nursing who earlier this year announced she was moving to a new role is made an OBE.

Caroline Watkins

Caroline Watkins

Caroline Watkins

Ms Anim was elected the RCN’s first black or minority ethnic president in 2014, having served four years as vice president.

She originally worked as a midwife in Ghana, before moving to the UK and qualifying as a nurse in 1977. A clinical nurse specialist in sexual health, she currently works in North London.

RCN general secretary and chief executive Janet Davies said: “Cecilia is a role model and an inspiration to many working in the NHS. She has worked tirelessly to promote the cause of nursing and support RCN members for more than three decades.

“She embodies the best of nursing. This honour is a wonderful and very welcome recognition of everything she has done for the nursing profession,” she said.

In addition, Geraldine Walters, the former director of nursing and midwifery at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who has now taken up a new role with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, becomes a CBE.

Meanwhile, Rosalind Alstead, director of nursing and clinical standards at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, has been made an OBE.

Gail Adams

Gail Adams

Gail Adams

Dr Walters, the NMC’s director of education, standards and policy, was also a visiting professor at Buckinghamshire New University and at the Florence Nightingale School at King’s College London

She joined the regulator in September to lead its programme of change for education including the development of new standards of proficiency for future graduate registered nurses and midwives.

She said: “I am thrilled and delighted to receive this honour. I am lucky to have worked for a number of inspiring people, and with some fabulous nursing and midwifery colleagues over the years. I owe this to all of them.”

Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, added: “Geraldine has dedicated her career to the nursing profession holding a number of vital leadership roles. I am delighted that Geraldine has been recognised in this way.”


Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire

  • Professor Caroline Leigh Watkins, professor of stroke and older people’s care, College of Health and Wellbeing, University of Central Lancashire – For services to nursing and older people’s care
  • Professor Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu CBE, emeritus professor of nursing – For services to nursing and the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal

Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

  • Professor Geraldine Walters, lately director of nursing and midwifery, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – For services to nursing and midwifery
  • Mrs Cecilia Anim, President, Royal College of Nursing and clinical nurse specialist in women’s health – For services to women’s health

 Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

  • Ms Gail Adams, head of nursing, Unison – For services to nursing and public healthcare
  • Professor Deborah Ann Sturdy, nurse adviser, Care England – For services to older people, dementia care and nursing
  • Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, head of maternity, NHS England – For services to midwifery
  • Mrs Lynda Ann Bonner, founder, National Nursing and Midwifery Nursing Network – For services to the treatment of venous thromboembolism
  • Mrs Jane Ann Gray, consultant nurse – For services to homeless and vulnerable people in the Midlands
  • Ms Rosalind Margaret Alstead, director of nursing and clinical standards, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust – For services to nursing
  • Mrs Angela McLernon, chief executive, Northern Ireland practice and education for nurses and midwives – For services to nursing.
  • Mrs Bernie Ryan, directorate manager, St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Manchester – For services to supporting people affected by sexual assault

Members of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

  • Mrs Jeanette Jane Henderson, lately senior charge nurse, Forensic Rehab, Elgin Ward, Ailsa Hospital, NHS Ayrshire and Arran – For services to healthcare

Medallist of the Order of the British Empire

  • Ms Fiona Haston, Macmillan clinical nurse specialist, head and neck cancer, NHS Lothian – For services to healthcare and charity
  • Mrs Theresa Maria Thomas, staff nurse, Medical Assessment Unit, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board – For services to nursing care in Gwent

Royal Navy Awards

Promotions in and appointments to the military division of the most excellent order of the British Empire

  • Commodore Inga Jane Kennedy, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service

Royal Red Cross

As an Ordinary Associate of the Royal Red Cross, Second Class

  • Major Jennifer Anne Ritchie, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps
  • Warrant Officer Lee Bond
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Readers' comments (1)

  • How wonderful that so many in the Nursing Profession have finally been recognised for the unfailing contribution that they make to Nursing and Continuing Health Care. Congratulation to all of them; and to the powers that be for marking and delivering these accolades.

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