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Covid-19 recovery hospital named after nurse Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican-born nurse who established a hospital to provide support for officers wounded in the Crimean War.

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The only known portrait of Mary Seacole (National Portrait Gallery/PA)

The only known portrait of Mary Seacole (National Portrait Gallery/PA)

The only known portrait of Mary Seacole (National Portrait Gallery/PA)

A community hospital to care for people recovering from Covid-19 will be named in honour of the pioneering nurse Mary Seacole, the NHS has announced.

The NHS Seacole Centre, the first of its kind in England, will be based at the NHS Headley Court Hospital in Leatherhead, Surrey, and has up to 300 inpatient beds.

It is hoped the hospital will free up capacity in other nearby hospitals for non-Covid patients and the urgent care of people with coronavirus.

Ms Seacole was a Jamaican-born nurse who was refused formal permission by the UK War Office to go and help alongside Florence Nightingale’s more well-known mercy mission in the Crimea.

She funded her own trip instead and established a hospital to provide support for officers wounded in the Crimean War.

She also visited the battlefield to nurse the wounded and became known as Mother Seacole.

Mary Seacole made an extraordinary, long-term contribution to community healthcare and so it is fitting that such an important service is honouring her nameChief nursing officer for England Ruth May

Last month, a petition to name the Birmingham NEC Nightingale hospital after Ms Seacole attracted almost 15,000 signatures.

Activist Patrick Vernon, who launched the petition, said: “It would reflect the diversity of our country and the NHS.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief nursing officer for England Ruth May will virtually open the NHS Seacole Centre on Monday.

Work has been ongoing in Leatherhead over the last month to transform a disused military hospital into the new inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “As well as providing important care in its own right, this new service – by recalling the pioneering work of Mary Seacole – rightly pays tribute to our BAME nurses and other staff at the forefront of the extraordinary NHS response to this terrible Covid-19 pandemic.

“It also serves as a timely reminder that it is their contribution over the past seven decades that has been a foundation for the very success and continuation of the NHS itself.

“I fully expect that this will be just the first of a number of Seacole services that will now begin to be established across the country as the NHS moves through the peak of inpatient coronavirus care and the need for community health and rehabilitative services grows.”

Mr Hancock said: “There can be no more fitting tribute to the extraordinary work of Mary Seacole than the compassion and dedication of our health and social care staff working on the frontline of this pandemic today.

“NHS Seacole will not only offer a vital space for recovery and rehabilitation, but will also free up crucial extra capacity so everybody who needs care can receive it over the coming months.”

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A memorial statue to black Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole (Handout/PA)

A memorial statue to black Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole (Handout/PA)

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A memorial statue to black Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole (Handout/PA)

Ms May said: “Mary Seacole made an extraordinary, long-term contribution to community healthcare and so it is fitting that such an important service is honouring her name.

“It’s also a wonderful testament to so many nurses and healthcare workers from diverse backgrounds and from different countries who make up our NHS – I am extremely proud of their continued dedication to step up these services for patient during the greatest challenge in our history.”

Mary Seacole Trust chairman, Trevor Sterling, said: “It is great that Mary Seacole, famous for battling disease and pioneering community rehabilitation, is being recognised in our country’s response to the virus.

“Naming the hospital at Headley Court the NHS Seacole Centre symbolises the contribution made by so many nurses and other healthcare workers, from all different backgrounds and from all around the world, who make up our wonderful NHS. We thank all healthcare staff for their amazing contribution to our communities.”

PA