DN150: One Hundred & Fifty Years of District Nursing

district nursing 150 - queens nursing institute

From its beginnings in 1859, District Nursing has evolved into an important part of health care throughout the UK and internationally.

district nursing timeline

1859 | William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant and philanthropist, had employed a nurse, Mary Robinson, to nurse his wife at home during her final illness. After his wife’s death, he retained Mary Robinson’s services so that people in Liverpool who could not afford to pay for nursing would benefit from care in their own homes. Seeing the good that nursing in the home could do, William Rathbone and Florence Nightingale worked together to try to develop the service. When too few trained nurses could be found, Rathbone set up and funded a nursing school in Liverpool specifically to train nurses for the 18 ‘districts’ of the City – and so organised ‘district nursing’ began. Read more about William Rathbone and the beginning of District Nursing >

1887 | The Queen’s Nursing Institute began in 1887, with the grant of £70,000 by Queen Victoria from the Women’s Jubilee Fund. A Royal Charter in 1889 named it ‘Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Institute for Nurses’, and gave it the objectives of providing the ‘training, support, maintenance and supply’ of nurses for the sick poor, as well as establishing training homes, supervising centres, co-operating with other bodies and establishes Branches as necessary. Read more here >

Photo of Queen Victoria courtesy of: © Ann Ronan Picture Library / Heritage-Images.



1904 | The welfare function was founded in 1904. Originally created to provide support to Queen’s Nurses, welfare assistance is now available to all community nurses who are either retired or whose working careers are threatened by ill-health and/or personal misfortune. In 2007, the QNI’s Financial Assistance Scheme awarded a total £78,318 to support 91 current or former community nurses.

1909 | The founding of the Institute was the next step in co-ordinating and setting national standards for district nurse training across the country. By 1909, the Jubilee Congress of District Nursing was celebrating 50 years of the profession, with branches of the Institute in Scotland and Ireland, and visitors to the Congress from district nursing associations from as far afield as the United States, Bermuda, Norway and Australia.

1927 | The National Gardens Scheme was founded in 1927 to raise money for the nurses of the Queen’s Nursing Institute by opening gardens of quality and interest to the public.
Visit the National Gardens Scheme website.




1928 | The name of the Institute is changed to the ‘Queen’s Institute of District Nursing’.


1968 | The Institute stops training nurses, offering different forms of professional support instead.


1973 | The Institute becomes known as ‘The Queen’s Nursing Institute’.
Visit the Queen's Nursing Institute website.







1987 | The QNI celebrates its Centenary: 1887-1987.

1990 | The Developing Practice and Innovative and Creative Practice Awards are created in 1990. These provide grants ranging from £2,500 to £7,500 to community nurses seeking to develop projects which improve patient-care. Since 1990, 149 projects have been funded, providing improved and more accessible healthcare to thousands of patients nationwide.


1994 | The Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Award for Outstanding Service is created in 1994. It is presented to nurses who have given exceptional service to patients through nursing practice in any aspect of primary health care.

Photo of the Queen Mother courtesy of www.centenarian.co.uk





2002 | The QNI’s report The Invisible Workforce is published: a discussion document that reports on the state of community nursing as seen by district nurses.


2006 | The QNI publishes Vision and Values - an updated report on the state of district and community nurses and their role in contemporary health care.







2007 | The QNI Fund for Innovation is created. Combining the award schemes created in 1990.

2007 | The QNI reinstates the title of Queen’s Nurse after an absence of 40 years. The title is an indicator of a qualified community nurse, who is committed to high standards of practice, learning and leadership.

2009 | The QNI publishes '2020 Vision', a major new report focusing on the future of district nursing.

The Future...