The story of the Jamaican nurses who helped to build the NHS


The past decade will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most transformative periods for women.


Female-led activism has defined the past ten years - from women’s rights, to environmentalism, to the fight against terror - women of all backgrounds have been leaders in many of the most powerful movements. 


Women-led protest movements have created platforms for everyday women and public figures alike to stand together and voice their thoughts, concerns and stories.


Now, personal biography-writing service StoryTerrace, has unveiled some of the most influential female activists of the decade according to professional storytellers. One of whom is Alina Wallace.


As Florence Nightingale is historically respected as a trailblazing figure who affected nursing policy in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was Mary Seacole, the Jamaican-British nurse who set up the ‘British Hotel’ behind the lines during the Crimean War who was at the forefront of how we see how nursing is practiced today.


Her (Mary Seacole) legacy lived on as, from 1948, the British Government funded recruitment drives to attract qualified nurses and trainees from the Caribbean to come to Britain – this played a huge part in creating the NHS which we cherish so dearly today. 


One particular group of nurses from Jamaica, who previously had no knowledge or experience of British culture, made the journey to the UK to work in the NHS. They later set up a charity known as the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) to help those facing discrimination and share harrowing personal experiences, which still stands today.Alina, one of the key members of the NAJ, has worked with StoryTerrace to document the lives of the Jamaican nurses, their travel and work in the UK to build the NHS, and the creation and work of the NAJ. It is an incredible tale of overcoming adversity, culture shock and adaptation, the beginnings of a treasured British institution, and the philosophy of the NAJ on sharing ideas and educating people on important health and social issues.


One of the NAJs members commented on the importance of documenting the individual efforts of Wallace and the NAJ: “As we celebrated our 49th year, we felt that we had achieved so much, but also that we were getting on, and there weren’t many young people replacing us.


“A lot of incredible efforts and stories of Alina and these nurses have been lost and we are keen to document these stories in the right way.


Until now, there was nothing to document how we had achieved everything, and we felt the need to leave a legacy for the next generation”.


‘Unity is Strength: The story of the Jamaican nurses who helped to build the NHS’ highlights the women of excellence who were at the forefront of what was a new National Health Service.