The introduction of female nurses to the military hospitals was deemed an outstanding success, Florence returned to Britain a heroine, and donations poured in to the Nightingale Fund. The money collected enabled Florence to continue her reform of nursing in the civil hospitals of Britain after the war. Determined that the medical mistakes of the two-year long war were never repeated, she vividly communicated the needs for medical reform using statistical charts which showed that more men had died from disease than from their wounds. She then instigated a Royal Commission into the health of the army which led to a large number of improvements and saved the lives of many.
Her attention later turned to the health of the British army in India and she demonstrated that bad drainage, contaminated water, overcrowding and poor ventilation were causing the high death rate. She concluded that the health of the army and the people of India had to go hand in hand and so campaigned to improve the sanitary conditions of the country as a whole.
The Nightingale Training School was established in 1860 using donations from the Nightingale Fund. Its reputation soon spread and Nightingale nurses were requested to start new schools all over the world, including Australia, America and Africa.
Despite often being confined to her sick bed, by what we now believe was a bacterial infection known as brucellosis, Florence continued as a driving force behind the scenes, writing some 13000 letters as part of her campaigns. She met Queen Victoria on many occasions and exchanged correspondence for over thirty years. Florence was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 1883. Then in 1907 she was the first woman to receive the Order of Merit, Britain’s highest civilian decoration.
Florence died aged 90, on 13th August 1910, and was buried alongside the graves of other family members in East Wellow, Hampshire.