Posted on: 3 July 2020

The Florence Nightingale Foundation today releases a special collage of nurses and midwives working on the frontline during COVID-19 to mark the 72nd birthday of the NHS.

The collection of photos comprising of NHS BAME nurses and midwives, has been created to honour the diversity of the health sector and pay special tribute to the many nationalities that make up the rich cultural tapestry of the NHS. 

Emily Kinyanjui, who works in the CNWL Harrow Memory Service as a Community Psychiatric Nurse is photographed (second row, far right). She has over 20 years’ experience across a wide range of mental health and began her nursing career as ‘pure coincidence’.


Emily said: “I was doing a different course and I needed to make money first to pay for the course and also to support myself. A friend encouraged me to join a nursing agency to earn some money and the first shift was in mental health ward and I have never looked back, but I knew that being a black woman living and working in the UK.

The Foundation, established in memory of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, runs leadership programmes for all NHS and healthcare nurses and midwives. The Foundation is renowned for empowering BAME nurses and midwives. In 2019/20  43% of participants were from a BAME background.

In 2018 the Foundation created the Windrush Leadership Programme, in partnership  with Health Education England, for nurses and midwives who are descendants of the Windrush Generation and other BAME NHS nurses and midwives. The purpose of the programme is to empower BAME staff and equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to pursue senior roles. The Foundation is in the third year of running the popular and heavily oversubscribed programme.


Emily, who took part in the programme says: “Given a chance I would do it all over again with no preservations and would encourage more BAME colleagues to apply. The first thing I noted was the compassion of the nurses there who had the ability to see these patients as people and not define them by their illness. My ambition since then has always been to be the same – to be an advocate for people who don’t have any care or a voice of their own though. I was aware as a black nurse I would have to work twice as hard to prove myself to both my colleagues and to the patients.

Professor Greta Westwood, CEO of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, pointed out that we mustn’t forget the important role that BAME nurses and midwives had in the creation and hence the history of the NHS, and that we must continue to support and develop them in our health systems.

The BAME nursing and midwifery contribution to the NHS, extends beyond the Windrush Generation. The NHS since its foundation has welcomed nationalities from across the world, actively recruiting a large majority of nurses and midwives from South Asia and the Philippines. 


Professor Greta Westwood said: “The NHS has been built on the shoulders of immigrants and at the Foundation we wanted to celebrate this history with this special photography project. The Nurse Behind the Mask is multicultural – made up of a number of nationalities from across the world, making the NHS so special. The collection of photographs celebrates BAME nurses and midwives who are integrated into the fabric of the NHS.”

“On the birthday of the NHS this Sunday 5 July, the Foundation is encouraging BAME nurses and midwives to share selfies across social media wearing masks, with the hashtag #NurseBehindTheMask or #MidwifeBehindTheMask in celebration of the many nationalities that make up the NHS. We encourage all non-BAME nurses and midwives to join in and  to show solidarity with their BAME colleagues.”

Share you pictures with us by tweeting @CNWLNHS with hashtags #NurseBehindTheMask

#MidwifeBehindTheMask #NHSBirthday #ThankYouTogether

Find out more details about the Florence Nightingale White Rose Appeal