History of the QNI
The QNI is probably the oldest professional nursing organisation in the UK and possibly the world.
Our QNI Heritage Website brings together documents, photographs and other resources from the past 160 years.
The charity was originally founded to organise the training of District Nurses and this was its core function until the 1960s, in a model that was copied across the world. It was instrumental in developing a comprehensive, highly-skilled service to meet the healthcare needs of millions of people every year.
The charity traces its origins to 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 and establishing branches.
‘District nursing’ began in England in 1859 when William Rathbone, a Liverpool merchant, philanthropist and later an MP, employed 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. Manchester, London and other cities followed suit.
The founding of the Institute in 1887-89 was the next step in co-ordinating national standards for District Nurse training across the country.