The Council and Staff of the Queen’s Nursing Institute were deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of longstanding Council member Mr William Rathbone.

William Rathbone OBE was a member of the Council of the Queen’s Nursing Institute from 1974 until his death on 31st December 2022.

As a great-great-grandson of the founder of District Nursing, William Rathbone VI, he continued a long family tradition of philanthropy and public service of international renown. His name was familiar to community nurses throughout the United Kingdom and abroad.

For 24 years from 1974, William Rathbone was Vice-Chair of Council. He served on the Remuneration Committee and the Nomination Committee and was also a member of the Finance and General Purposes Committee for many years. He attended most QNI Awards Ceremonies and public events, and as such was a very visible connection with the proud history and tradition of community nursing in the UK.

William Rathbone was appointed to the QNI’s Council by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1974 and he continued to guide the organisation for more than 48 years, transforming it from an organisation close to closure to the successful professional body it is today. Bill was the fifth member of his family to serve on the Institute’s Council from its inception and the Rathbones are the only founding family still contributing to the organisation that William Rathbone VI founded in 1887. Bill’s passing is a huge loss to the Institute, and I will personally miss his wise counsel, friendship, and vast knowledge of the QNI.

Professor John Unsworth OBE, Chair of Council

William Rathbone X – the X denoting the fact that he was the tenth member of his family to bear the name – was born in Liverpool in May 1936.

Following National Service in the Royal Artillery, which included a year on active service in Malaya, he went up to Christ Church, Oxford where he read philosophy, politics and economics. He had a successful career in business, working at Ocean Group plc, a multinational shipping company, for 29 years. He then became Chief Executive of RUKBA, now Independent Age, a national charity helping older people in need, leading the organisation for 12 years.

Following his retirement in 2001, William Rathbone devoted himself to his passion for the voluntary sector, being closely involved with seven charities. In 2009 he was awarded the Gold Badge of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, its highest award, and in 2012 he was made an OBE for his charitable services.

I would like to pay tribute to William Rathbone and the superb and enduring support he gave to the Queen’s Nursing Institute throughout his life. His understanding and commitment to the mission and purpose the QNI was absolute, and his wisdom and sound judgement as a trustee of the organisation was of immense value to all of us. He had a long vision for the QNI drawn from his family’s involvement over successive generations, but he also had a keen interest in the day-to-day running of the organisation and his generosity and kindness was appreciated by everyone at the QNI.

Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, Chief Executive

Prior to his death, the QNI created the William Rathbone X Award for Excellence in the Executive Nurse Leadership of Community Nursing Services. This new annual award will open for nominations early in 2023.

The Rathbone family’s involvement with the QNI continues through Mr Nick Addyman, the son-in-law of William Rathbone, who has served as a trustee since 2017.



A summary of the Rathbone family’s involvement with the QNI can be found on our heritage website (updates pending): qniheritage.org.uk/history/the-rathbone-connection/

Media Contact

Matthew Bradby, Head of Communications, matthew.bradby@qni.org.uk

Video title

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Aliquid aperiam corporis ea earum eveniet nemo, porro voluptatibus! A expedita in laborum non odit quidem quis quod reiciendis reprehenderit sint? Quo.