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New nurse peer pledges to champion profession

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Professor Mary Watkins has been made a crossbench peer in the House of Lords and will become a baroness.

The peerage, announced today by the Independent House of Lords Appointments Commission, is in recognition of her work in the fields of nursing, education, social enterprise and housing.

Professor Watkins, a former deputy vice-chancellor at Plymouth University, qualified as a general nurse in 1976 and a mental health nurse in 1979.

“I promise to go on championing the contribution of nursing and the South West in this new and exciting phase of my life”

Mary Watkins

She subsequently worked in community, in-patient mental health and acute settings, providing non-emergency and emergency healthcare.

Made a Nightingale Scholar in 1985, Professor Watkins joined Plymouth in 2003 and was appointed deputy vice-chancellor in 2007.

She retired in 2012 but holds the title of emeritus professor of healthcare leadership and is on the university’s board of governors.

Professor Watkins was also inaugural editor of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

“I am honoured by this appointment,” she said. “As a nurse, I have been driven by the desire to improve patient care, as an academic I aimed to instil that ethos in students, and through my work in mental health and housing I endeavour to ensure that those most in need are considered when developing strategy.”

She added: “I am truly humbled to be made a member of the House of Lords, and I promise to go on championing the contribution of nursing and the South West in this new and exciting phase of my life.”

Professor David Coslett, interim vice-chancellor at Plymouth University, said: “We are delighted that Mary has been honoured for her life’s work in nursing and education.

“She has made an invaluable contribution, not just to this university, but to the region and nationally, particularly in the sphere of nursing education,” he said.

“We urgently need more peers with this sort of background to ensure that the views and experiences of the nation’s nurses are fully represented”

Janet Davies

The Royal College of Nursing congratulated Professor Watkins on her appointment to the Lords.

The college, of which Professor Watkins is a member, noted that her ennoblement meant there would “now be a small number nurses or former nurses representing the interests of the profession from the upper house”.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “This is a considerable personal achievement for Professor Watkins, who has had a long and distinguished career, particularly in the important field of nursing education.

“As parliamentarians, nurses such as Professor Watkins will be able to scrutinise legislation and hold governments to account,” she said.

“We urgently need more peers with this sort of background to ensure that the views and experiences of the nation’s nurses are fully represented and… that the nursing voice is heard,” she added.

Other peers with strong links to the nursing profession include Baroness Audrey Emerton and Baroness Caroline Cox.

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