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Who would you give a birthday honour to?


The wonderful but self-effacing Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, deserved her CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. And I say that not because I am a QNI trustee, but because she is passionate about nursing care in the community and cares deeply about representing those nurses and their patients.

I was equally delighted to see Jean White, chief nursing officer for Wales, appointed a CBE as she’s patient and tireless in trying to improve patient care in her role. And one of our Nursing Times Leaders from 2015 Professor Belinda Dewar, from the University of the West of Scotland, was named an OBE.

A total of 21 nurses were included in the birthday honours and I am only sorry I don’t have space to pay tribute to them all here, but their names are on our website. I hope you can take the time to read them and feel a sense of pride in your profession.

If I was coming up with my own honours list, though, there’s one person who really would be high on the list. And that’s fearless chief nurse of Imperial College Healthcare, Janice Sigsworth.

The compelling BBC1 programme Hospital began its second series this week in dramatic fashion. In a meeting to address recruitment issues – which currently affect every healthcare organisation – the chief nurse asks how many vacancies the trust has – the answer is 699. The discussion is interrupted when the hospital is alerted to the terrorist incident that occurred on Westminster Bridge back in March. The hospital is put on standby, and staff in the meeting are informed it will be receiving victims from the attack. They immediately adjourn to implement the major incident protocol.

Janice is the ultimate in cool, level headedness in dealing with this incident. Despite the woefully inadequate staffing levels highlighted in the opening scene – the team at Imperial step into action and treat the patients delivered to them. Of course this is what many of you do every day, but that doesn’t mean we should not pay tribute to the way this team operates under extreme pressure. It is something special to behold. And Janice, at the helm of this operation, is exceptional as a nursing leader.

More than that, she demonstrates the complexity of nursing in a way few have managed at a time when we badly need people to appreciate what nurses – and all health professionals – face in their work, every single day.

It must have taken real courage to allow the cameras into the trust, but I am so glad the organisation decided to take that risk. The media can often be unpredictable in its editing, although the BBC seems to be entirely sympathetic and sensitive. The trust’s brave decision has revealed what it takes to run a hospital in the current climate, with the relentless pressures of routine work compounded by extraordinary events – and the trust was also called upon in the aftermath of both the Borough Market attack and the Grenfell Tower in addition to the Westminster attack. Its staff have demonstrated just what it means to be a clinician faced with this sort of trauma.

This programme is performing a crucial service – the public needs to see what managing a hospital really involves, and just what health professionals do day in, day out.

In my book, that’s worthy of a few letters after Ms Sigsworth’s name. Let’s hope that when they’re compiling the next honours list the people deciding who gets to go to the palace wearing their best fascinators think so too.


Readers' comments (3)

  • To every single nurse who has looked after me and my family - every single one is amazing!
    And to all the nurses on this forum - I really appreciate all the love you give to all your patients.


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  • Certainly not any of the names on the list ! I agree with the comment above.

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  • There are many Nurse out there both good and bad but I have come across some in 2 Trusts in Co. Durham who willingly and knowingly chose to harm their patient and elderly relatives. The harmed patient did not receive appropriate treatments and the result of this is detrimental to the patient who cannot stand on two flat feet. I was abused and left with physical and mental disability. All Drs and nurses chose to do nothing for me and the Executives staff choose to do nothing for their staff. Thus if staff are not helped to understand and accept their illness neither can the patient receive appropriate care. Nurse Edith Cavell cared for injured soldiers from opposing sides but sadly she was punished by death. How sad it is bearing in mind past compassionate acts done by Edith and Mary Seacole that the Chief Nurse has felt compelled to advocate compassion in nursing. Let us honour the cornerstone of the NHS by enabling patients with every illness to receive care from competent professionals. No one should be left with an illness which receives no treatment particularly if the illness belongs to staff who may go on to harm again.

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