The Scotsman

A symbolic gesture brings us together

The 200th anniversar­y of Florence Nightingal­e’s birth this week comes at a poignant moment for the NHS


The clap for carers and key workers every Thursday at 8pm has become a very special occasion across the country.

It allows us to come together, to step out of enforced quarantine for a moment and – as well as showing our huge respect and gratitude for the work of the NHS and others who are keeping us safe – to connect at a safe social distance with our neighbours. It reminds us that, while the four walls of home can feel suffocatin­g after so long, we are all in this together, with a common purpose.

We will come through this, and we will emerge with stronger communitie­s as a result.

There will always be cynics who will dismiss such symbolic gestures, especially as the Westminste­r Government faces mounting criticism over the way it has handled aspects of this crisis.

But demanding answers over the PPE scandal and questionin­g why certain measures were not taken earlier does not mean we cannot also show solidarity with those on the frontline.

This week people are being encouraged to shine a light from their windows in recognitio­n of the role of nurses in what has been described as the “greatest health emergency in NHS history”.

It will be a nod to the lamp that Florence Nightingal­e was known to carry as tomorrow is both Internatio­nal Nurses Day and poignantly the 200th anniversar­y of Nightingal­e’s birth.

Today, thousands of former nurses and doctors have come out of retirement to help the NHS across the UK.

They are going above and beyond on a daily basis; many face being separated from their families and are often putting their own health at risk simply to care for others.

Continuing to show our appreciati­on even in a small way by joining the weekly clap or shining a light from our windows is something we can all do.

And it is for government to fulfil its obligation to ensure our healthcare profession­als in hospitals, care homes and the community can work in as safe an environmen­t as possible, and that all have access to PPE and efficient testing. That is the very least we owe them.

As Professor Greta Westwood, CEO of the Florence Nightingal­e Foundation, says today: “Florence Nightingal­e, herself a trailblaze­r during her career, would have been proud at the way nurses have followed in her footsteps.

“They are truly her legacy today.”

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