Skip to main content

TimelineDistrict Nursing from its beginnings in 1859.

The Beginning


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 >


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 >


The QNI’s welfare function was founded in 1904. Originally created to provide support to Queen’s Nurses, financial assistance is now available to all community nurses who are either retired or whose careers are threatened by ill-health or personal crisis. You can read more about help that we offer here.


In 1909, the Jubilee Congress of District Nursing celebrated 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.


The National Garden 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 Garden Scheme website.


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


The National Health Service comes into operation and District Nursing services become free for all patients for the first time.


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


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


The QNI celebrates its Centenary: 1887-1987.


The QNI began to offer professional development and financial grants to community nurses to lead projects in their local area. Today known as the Fund for Innovation and Leadership, the scheme has funded hundreds of projects in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and benefited thousands of patients, carers and families. Read more here.


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


The QNI reinstates the title of Queen’s Nurse after an absence of 40 years. Community nurses who have at least five years’ experience can apply for the title. Today there are almost 1200 Queen’s Nurses, who are committed to high standards of practice and patient care, learning and leadership. In 2017 the Queen’s Nurse title was also reintroduced in Scotland.
Read more here.


The QNI publishes ‘2020 Vision’, a major new report focusing on the future of district nursing.


The QNI celebrates its 130th Anniversary.
The future...