Boris Johnson joins Helena Bonham Carter at service to pay tribute to nurses

Boris Johnson has joined actress Helena Bonham Carter at a service to pay tribute to the efforts of nurses throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister was among a reduced congregation of 60 people at Westminster Abbey in London.

The service, which takes place annually to mark Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12 – now known as International Nurses’ Day – is this year recognising the contribution and sacrifice of nurses and midwives since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth were also in attendance, alongside Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, and outgoing NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

The Crown star Bonham Carter, whose great-great-grandmother was Nightingale’s aunt, has hailed nurses as “heroes”, particularly for their work in the past year.

Ahead of the service, the actress, who is giving a reading, said: “Us actors regularly get awards for basically pretending to be heroines, but we all know that, particularly this last year, it is the nurses who are the real heroes and deserve real recognition.”

International Nurses’ Day
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Westminster Abbey for the service (Victoria Jones/PA)

Members of the public are being encouraged to thank nurses and midwives by donating to the Florence Nightingale Foundation’s white rose appeal, which last year raised £88,000.

The money raised helped fund access to emotional and wellbeing support.

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Bonham Carter’s great-great-uncle, Walter Bonham Carter, helped establish the foundation in 1934, and the actress said she feels she has “inherited a family responsibility” to support it.

A livestream of the service is available on the abbey’s website.