Margaret Nimmo: Nursing administrator who oversaw the restructuring of her profession

Margaret Nimmo started nursing at 17, which was possible in Scotland in 1941, and became a leading nurse administrator, creating new structures when nursing was establishing its own administrative identity, no longer under, but parallel with, doctors. She also became a collector of modern art and, although tone-deaf herself, pioneered a series of charity fund-raising concerts.

Margaret Nimmo was born in West Lothian, one of three sisters. She trained in Edinburgh at the Western General Hospital, where she was to spend the rest of her professional life, apart from a period spent at Aberdeen where she qualified as a midwife. The matron of the Western, noting her potential, sent her on an administrative course at the Royal College of Nursing in 1955, and in 1963 she was awarded a Florence Nightingale Fellowship to study nursing practice in the US.

At the Western, the surgeon Sir John Bruce founded a combined medical and surgical gastro-intestinal unit, focused primarily on the management of peptic ulceration and inflammatory bowel disease. In this multi-disciplinary atmosphere Nimmo was the ward sister.

From here she moved on to beadministrative sister, assistantmatron, deputy matron and, in 1964, matron. She soon showed herselfto be a prophet before her time. She told a national newspaper in 1968 that hospitals had much to learn fromindustrial methods of organisation and management, which if applied to the NHS might increase efficiency andreduce costs.

"The process of adoption from an era of dedication, selfless service and somewhat muddled, but kindly, organisation to technological expertise is bound to be difficult," she declared. "Spinsters are vanishing, hitherto ward sisters and matrons virtually ran the hospitals as socially unattractive twins. Their long experience gave stability and a sense of security to other staff and patients. Adverse publicity, hints of disharmony, autocratic attitudes by administration, increase disenchantment. The young today will not respond to organisations lacking in clear objectives, good communication or in just management."

During this period, nurses were asserting their autonomy as a separate profession, and Nimmo was part of this, becoming a member of the Scottish Board of the Royal College of Nursing and of its national council. With the Salmon Report of 1966 came management change for nurses. Nimmo took up the newly created position of chief nursing officer for the Edinburgh Northern Health Board, responsible for hospitals on the north side of the capital. In 1974 this board was succeeded by the Lothian Health Board, of which Nimmo remained CNO until her retirement in 1985.

Although not at all musical herself, when approached by the Sir Malcolm Sargent Cancer Fund for Children, she helped launch carol concerts by nurses and hospital staff in the Usher Hall. Over the years, these raised considerable sums for the charity, now the CLIC Sergent Fund.

On retirement she set out to travel, often visiting nurses she had met when they came to Britain to study. Wherever she went, Nimmo sought those who had come to the Western and met the leaders of the profession in China, Japan, India and Canada. Her hobbies were the collection of antiques and modern art, including the work of Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.

Margaret Nimmo, nurse administrator: born West Lothian 31 January 1923; died Edinburgh 27 October 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor