1st July 2020

Veterans salute as RBLI thanks its carers with Florence Nightingale award

Nurses and carers were saluted by the military veterans they care for during Royal British Legion Industries’ (RBLI) ‘Thank You’ Carers Award ceremony. The healthcare workers were thanked by the charity and its beneficiaries for their work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued support of the community.

The ceremony recognised the 100 nurses and carers who provide support on RBLI’s Aylesford village which is a home to more than 300 veterans and their families.

As a thank you to their carers, RBLI developed and presented awards using a new image of Florence Nightingale, who famously supported veterans during the Crimean War, wearing a rainbow facemask. Created by the visual artist and photographer, Martin Barraud, the awards are now also available to the public to recognise the country’s healthcare teams for their continued service during this crisis.

Steve Sherry CMG OBE, RBLI’s chief executive said: “Nursing and care staff have faced an unprecedented challenge over recent months in the form of an invisible enemy. Whilst most of us watch on the sidelines in awe, teams throughout the country have been working tirelessly to do all they can to improve people’s wellbeing.

“Martin Barraud’s Florence image was the perfect way to recognise the work of those on RBLI’s village and in care homes up and down the country – she truly is an icon of all carers and nurses. She represents the dedication to tackle difficult challenges head on, and with unwavering commitment, do all that is possible to better the lives of those who are vulnerable. Her impact has lasted well over 100 years.

“And what the pandemic has done is refocus everyone on the fact that nursing care and good care practice is of vital importance to all our lives.”

Registered nurse Carmen Cartnell, who has worked at the RBLI’s care home, Gavin Astor House, throughout the pandemic, said: “I feel honoured that I’ve got the privilege to work with our veterans – the things that they’ve done and seen, hopefully we will never ever see. We need to remember that these people weren’t born old, they have a history, and have defended this country. I do everything I can to keep the dignity and the respect they deserve.

“We’ve been very lucky because we’ve had great support from the RBLI community. When I reflect on it, it’s made me realise how important every single person is – how we support each other in the bigger community. It’s made me think that nobody is more important than anybody else. We’re like a jigsaw, everyone has got their place.

“Today was RBLI and the whole community thanking us for what we’ve been through. The award has meant so me to me and my colleagues. It’s been such an emotional time recently and it makes you see that people do recognise the work we are doing. The award – with Florence Nightingale – is going right in the middle of my mantelpiece and it will stay there.

Royal Marine George Bradford, 89, who lives in Royal British legion Industries’ assisted living accommodation Queen Elizabeth Court, presented the awards to the charity’s nurses and carers who had look after him and his comrades.

George said: “From the outset of the lockdown our nurses and carers have worked each and every day doing what they do best and keeping us safe from the virus. If we were showing signs of depression through being alone in our flat they reassured us and cheered our day.  They made us realise we were all kept in isolation for our own good and helped us cope with the situation.

“Our lives would have been worsened were it was not for the utter dedication, steely determination and gentle compassion shown by our nursing and care staff during the very worst of trying times.  Through your efforts you have kept us safe. You have all made our days brighter and we are all sincerely grateful for all you have done.  We are proud to salute you.”

Established in 1919 to provide support to veterans returning from the First World War, RBLI today supports more than 11,000 people every year, including 300 veterans on its multigenerational village in Aylesford, through a range of high dependency, assisted living, family and emergency homes.

All Florence Nightingale awards made available for the public will be created and shipped by RBLI’s social enterprise, Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company (BBMC) which gives veterans and people with disabilities up-skilling and employment opportunities.

To buy your own Florence Nightingale award and thank the carers in your life, visit: https://rbli.co.uk/florence/