African Women who launched the National Health Service

It has long been claimed that Kofoworola Pratt was the first Black woman to work in the NHS upon its creation. In 1946, Pratt moved to London and began her training at the Nightingale School at St Thomas’ Hospital where she was from 1946-1950. With the NHS beginning in 1948, she is recognised as one of the first black women to work in the NHS. She was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal in 1973 demonstrating her international prestige. For her role in pioneering nursing in the NHS, Kofoworola Pratt was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Nursing. However, at exactly the same time that Pratt was registered as an NHS nurse, another nurse – Mojibola Pratt, was also registered. We know that Mojibola actually qualified on the same date as Kofoworola on the 25th November 1949. 


This information means that Kofoworola Pratt clearly wasn’t the first, although she may have been one of the first. Other African women who were working in the Health Service around the time of the NHS’s creation include Florence Familusi, Ebun Fashuyi, Regina Otubisinand Omoyele Majekodunmi to name a few, who all studied at Farnborough Hospital in the late 40s. Familusi worked as a midwife and in 1952 wed Olatunde O. Makanjuola in Britain. African women specialised in different sectors of the health sector such as Edith Agnes Olayemi Phillips who worked as a Children’s nurse. 

This shows the danger of claiming people as the first, without conducting necessary research into other pioneers. The history of African women and the British Health Service is a collective history that includes many thousands of stories and experiences. Colonial changes contributed to the increase of African nurses training in British hospitals following the creation of the NHS as there was a greater demand for health professionals.


[1] Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: The First Black Nurse In The NHS And Major Founder Of Nursing In Nigeria — The Nightingale Society. 2020. Nightingalesociety.Com. Accessed April 2. http://nightingalesociety.com/

[2] The First BME Nurse In The NHS - By Professor Lynn Mcdonald - Florence Nightingale Comes Home For 2020. 2020. Florence Nightingale Comes Home For 2020. Accessed April 2. http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/florencenightingale

[3] Search Results. 2020. Archives.Rcn.Org.Uk. Accessed April 2. https://archives.rcn.org.uk.

[4] Ancestry.co.uk. 2020. Nursing Register (1949). [online] Available at: <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/> [Accessed 13 June 2020].

[5] Ancestry.co.uk. 2020. Incoming Passenger List. [online] Available at: <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/> [Accessed 13 June 2020].