We are celebrating this years’ Black History Month with the theme: From Struggle, To Growth, To Strength. The BME network presents a series of articles highlighting 5 Black British Icons from the past and present.

Dame Donna Kinnair

Donna Kinnair initially started a degree in maths but did not complete it. However, Kinnair was motivated to pursue nursing by an occupational health nurse during the pregnancy of her first child. Her father also suffered with chronic asthma and Kinnair saw the positive impact that nurses had on patients’ health and wellbeing.

Kinnair has had many senior positions in healthcare including:

  • Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust
  • Executive Director of Nursing, Southeast London Cluster Board
  • Director of Commissioning for London Borough of Southwark and Southwark PCT
  • Strategic Commissioner for Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority’s Children’s Services
  • In 2018 she was appointed the Chief Executive and General Secretary at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

On Windrush Day, 22 June 2019, Kinnair recognised the barriers faced by the Windrush nurses where many Windrush nurses were not promoted or were not accepted onto the state registered nurse training despite having the required qualifications. She also highlighted the RCN’s commitment to addressing systemic and chronic inequalities in nursing.

In 2010 Kinnair was invited to be a member of the Prime Minister’s Commission to advise on the state and future of nursing. She has also taught in countries including New Zealand, Russia, Kenya, and Britain.

In 2020 Kinnair was regarded as one of the 100 most influential Britons of African/African Caribbean descent in the 2020 Powerlist and in the Powerlist 2021 she ranked as 6th for her work during Covid-19.