Daphne Steele Day
On 16th October 2023 St George’s, Epsom, and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group marked the first, of what will become an annual celebration, Daphne Steele Day.
The hospital group celebrated Daphne’s dedication to the nursing profession on what would have been her 94th birthday, as part of its Black History Month celebrations.
‘Saluting our sisters’ is the theme of Black History Month this year, and what better way to do that than salute Daphne Steele. Daphne was the first Black matron in the NHS and before becoming this, worked locally at St James’ Hospital, which later went on to become part of St George’s Hospital.
Arlene Wellman, the hospital group’s Chief Nurse, who is also the most senior internationally trained nurse in the UK, planted a tree at St George’s Hospital in Daphne’s memory.
At the event for Daphne Steele Day, Arlene shared a poem she’d written:
Today we salute Daphne Steele
A sister of colour and one we should honour
As the first black matron in the NHS way back in 1964
She pushed through and opened the door
A door that many like me have since walked through
Although when we look back it’s still too few
So though some of us still have to kick
This is a reminder that she did it then so we should not quit
Jacqueline Totterdell, Group Chief Executive for the hospital group, said: “Daphne Steele embodied everything we stand for – to give the greatest care to our patients, and to promote equality in everything we do.”
Daphne arrived in England in 1951 from Guyana and despite the racism she faced, continued to break down barriers and paved the way for nurses that follow in her footsteps.
When she was given an award in 2001 to recognise her success, she said “If one can do it, we all can do it.”
Daphne’s sister, Jeune Singh, attended the event at St George’s, in memory of her sister and her legacy. She recalled fond memories of growing up as a child, as one of seven siblings, of whom Daphne was the eldest.
Jeune also worked at St George’s, for 20 years between 1972 and 1992 she worked as a nurse for the hospital and spent much of her time at the Trust in a midwifery role.
The hospital group is hosting a series of events throughout Black History Month at both Trusts, other events include a Workforce Race and Equality Standard (WRES) conference at Epsom and St Helier, and a ‘Let’s talk about legacy’ meeting at St George’s.
The hospital group is committed to creating racial equality not just during the month of October, but throughout the year.
In a message to all staff across the hospital group, Jacquleine said: “Together we can build a workplace where diversity and inclusion are valued and celebrated.
“This is hugely important – not just to me, but for all of us, and the people we care for.”