• Sofia Eugeniou

Mary Seacole inspires name of temporary COVID-19 recovery centre

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

The NHS Seacole Centre, named in honour of the pioneering nurse Mary Seacole, has opened in Surrey as part of the NHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being the first of its kind in England, the centre will be used as a temporary service for patients who are recovering from coronavirus.

Based in Leatherhead, Surrey, the site will also provide rehabilitation for those who have been in hospital for routine treatment.

Who was Mary Seacole?

Image credit: Mary Seacole Trust

Mary Seacole was a British-Jamaican businesswoman and nurse, known for her medical work in the Crimean War (Oct 1853 to Feb 1856).

Born in Jamaica more than 200 years ago to a black mother and a white Scottish army officer father, Mary was born a 'free person' during a period when many black people in the Caribbean were forced to work as slaves.

Seacole's position as a nurse and her role in setting up the "British Hotel" behind the lines during the Crimean War has cemented Seacole as a hugely important figure in British history.

Highlighting Seacole's significance and legacy to society, she was voted by the public as the greatest black Briton of all time in February 2004.

Unsurprisingly, Seacole also combated racial prejudices in her lifetime. There is much evidence to suggest that the resistance Seacole experienced during her life, particularly as a nurse, was motivated by race. Seacole also faced much criticism from members of the British establishment and media.

Discussing the new NHS site, 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".

In an unprecedented and rather traumatic period of time, the BAME community is having to deal with disproportionate deaths to COVID-19, as well as the explosive global movement that is campaigning against police brutality and systemic racism which continues to disadvantage and impact black and multi-ethnic communities.

The opening of the new NHS site, named after Mary Seacole, is a fantastic way to honour not only an incredible woman of colour but people of black and ethnic backgrounds as a whole.

The new site also pays respect to the current uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, which aims to end police brutality and racial inequality towards black people.

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