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Jane Cummings tells Nursing Times nurses have a stronger voice in wake of government reforms

The voice of nursing at a national level has been strengthened, not weakened, as a result of the government’s reforms, according to NHS England’s chief nursing officer.

In an exclusive interview with Nursing Times, Jane Cummings questioned criticisms from Robert Francis QC that the profession had failed to respond adequately to his report following the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.

Last month Mr Francis criticised nursing for being less responsive than managers or doctors to his report, and that he had little optimism the strength of the “nursing voice” would be improved.

His report had identified a need to monitor the impact of the government’s splitting of the CNO role at the DH into two new senior positions – a CNO at NHS England and director of nursing at the DH – noting that it might dilute the voice of nursing at a national level.

But Ms Cummings told Nursing Times she thought the voice of nursing had in fact been “strengthened” as a result of the split.

“Clearly the job has changed, but I am still the professional lead for nurses and midwives in England. I work at NHS England and have the professional view and, as the professional advisor to the government, I have the benefit of being able to work with the Department of Health and ministers.

“But I am also a member of the NHS and I am connected to the frontline and to staff.”

She also said there had been a large amount of work done to incorporate recommendations from the Francis report into the new national nursing strategy, Compassion in Practice.

“My personal view is that nursing has responded very strongly and I have engaged with thousands of nurses,” she said. “Robert Francis will have a reason for saying what he did, but it is not the impression I have had when we have shared with him what we are doing.”

She said the aims of Compassion in Practice had been “cross referenced” with the recommendations from the Francis report and that elements had been added as a result, including actions around named nurses and greater collaboration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

However, she acknowledged that implementing the strategy “won’t be done overnight”. “I’m not saying it will be easy,” she said. “We have a long way to go.”

Ms Cummings is due to meet with Mr Francis this week to discuss the work being done following his landmark report.


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Readers' comments (20)

  • tinkerbell

    from your high perch the garden may look rosy but down here on planet earth the poison ivy is twining around our ankles, pulling us backwards and choking the life force out of us, yet still we persist in trying to deliver quality care with diminishing resources/budget/staff. Please take the blindfold off.

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  • Oh no it isn't!
    And I have not heard anything 'strong' from the CNO either that makes me think Wow - a strong nursing voice- and strategic too.
    So agree with Tinkerbell.

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  • Big Brother speak. Just keep repeating what Big Brother tells you. As we all know, he only has the interests of the health service at heart. So Jane, just carry on in the way you are going, because everything is going to be ok. How do I know? Because Big Brother says so.

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  • Can some one please take the foot out of this Cummings woman's mouth and use it to give her a good kick in the backside?! Her increasing number of public displays of incompetence are toe-curlingly embarrassing.

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  • michael stone

    As far as I can see - and I might be wrong, this isn't my specialist interest - 'the nursing voice' has not been heard much at all recently: well, not paid much attention to, anyway.

    The test for this one, is the simple question of will nursing be listened to more by non-nurses in the future ?

    Time will tell.

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  • tinkerbell

    she's a 'puppet'. Someone's got their hand up her skirt and is working her.

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  • tinkerbell

    Please send any comments to Kevan, he might be the other strategy we are loing for.


    Have you ever had to visit A&E? If so, you've probably met someone like me. I've worked in the NHS for 14 years and I care deeply about our health service and the patients I look after. I love my job.

    But recently, things have started to get hard. I've started to notice a real difference right across the NHS, I see it in the faces of my colleagues, and I can see it in me too. We've got fewer resources and more patients to see. I might have 20 people in my waiting room, and nearly all of them need to be seen urgently -- but we simply don't have the staff to see them quickly enough. That's terrible for patients, and hard for all of us who work in the NHS to witness.

    For me and my colleagues, this isn't about politics, this is about my patients. Patients who rely on our care because they've nowhere else to turn. I'm sharing my story because we should be championing what we do. What we see on the frontline every single day is like no other job out there. I want to see a health service that I can be proud of again.

    Will you join with us to stand up for our health service? If you've ever had cause to be thankful for the NHS, please tell us about your experiences now

    My work has had its tough moments but I chose to work in the NHS because I wanted to do something that mattered and made a difference and I'm proud of what I do. It's not just a job to me -- I care deeply about our health service and the patients I look after.

    For though our NHS may be in trouble, everywhere I look I see dedicated staff working all hours to hold our health service together. I know we've got time left to turn it around. That's why I've been working with Andy Burnham to tell my story: to show people what's really happening to our NHS.

    We'd love to hear what the help, skill and kindness of our health service has meant to you and your family.

    Tell us about a time when you got to see the best of the NHS -- and let's remind Britain why our beloved National Health Service is worth fighting for.

    There's still time. Let's seize it.

    Thank you,


    Emergency Care Practitioner,
    Croydon University Hospital

    To unsubscribe, please click here. Privacy: we won't pass on your email address to anyone else. See Reproduced from an email sent by the Labour Party, promoted by and on behalf of the Labour Party at One Brewer's Green, London SW1H 0RH.

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  • tinkerbell

    Please contact Kevan on the above link.

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  • DELUDED - The NHS is being systematically broken up and given away to the private sector. Real nurses have almost no effective voice yet are the scapegoat for almost everything. A week, or even a day without nurses across the NHS would be noticed by patients, including many deaths. The action by GPs and junior doctors had almost no impact on services.

    The electorate really need to wake up or the NHS will join many other services being privatised and will ultimately cost more. This is also happening in Education, Fire, Police etc

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  • if nurses voices have been heard then why are we still short staffed, have inadequate skillmix, have bullying managers and HCAs have not been 'regulated'?

    Why don't these people actually ask ALL health workers what THEY think is important.

    When is Ms Cummings coming to visit my place of work?

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  • Anonymous | 6-Jun-2013 6:12 am

    she has an electronic address. why not write and and ask her?

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  • Anonymous | 6-Jun-2013 7:04 am

    She doesn't reply. Next great idea?

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  • Anonymous | 6-Jun-2013 1:06 pm

    have you tried? I have seen her twitter responses to others on her DH webpage. She seems communicative enough.

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  • I feel sorry for Jane Cummings.


    She is the Chief Nursing Officer and has no real power in the Government or in the NHS. What can she really do?

    Her main responsibility is to be a scapegoat and to provide a distraction for all the nurses and this is working - see posts above - from the Government's policies.

    Can she force the Trusts to have minimum nurse-to-patients ratios?

    You see she has to tow the Government line- think she'll try to force the Trusts to employ more nurses? - or she'll be out of a job.

    She may be trying her best to do things that she can actually do while knowing, deep within her heart, that it isn't enough. The CNO role has no real bite - it cannot hold the Trusts accountable or argue with the Government about nursing levels - she's just a figurehead.

    The CNO may be reading all your posts and agreeing with them for all we know but she cannot admit you are all right in public as that goes against Government policy and she'll be out of her job.

    One question to ask is what can she actually do? and another one is What would you do in her position?

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  • Anonymous | 6-Jun-2013 1:06 pm

    I don't do twitter. She hasn't replied to any emails. Not communicative at all.

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  • I did a quick survey at work today and asked 29 colleagues who they thought Jane Cummings was and what she did. 7 were able to identify that she was the CNO (although 2 of those thought she covered the whole of the UK, not just England). Says it all really.
    Chatting to your mates on twitter does not constitute effective communication with the many thousands of frontline nurses you are supposed to be leading. Jane Cummings needs to stop restricting her activities to universities, conferences and staged events. That isn't where you will find the vast majority of nurses. She needs to make considerable effort and take the time to undertake (a task that can be shared with her minions) a comprehensive programme of meeting the staff on the frontline and listening to what they have to say, countrywide. Nothing staged.
    She should not need any invitation through twitter or any other electronic means. Indeed, instead of being so busy in the twitter-sphere, she should surely be paying attention to what is being written in the Nursing Times, which I believe is the UK's most read nursing publication. No reason for Jane Cummings to be ignorant of the comments here.

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  • Albert's Mum

    Anonymous | 6-Jun-2013 7:17 pm

    When you hear her on things like BBC radio 4, etc, Cummings does seem to know what is happening. The problem seems to be what PDave Angel pointed out: if she rocks the boat, she will be for the chop.

    However, as typical nurses commonly say "nobody listens to me", why is it a surprise that she doesn't seem able to change things, either?

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  • Albert's Mum | 7-Jun-2013 1:18 pm

    good point!

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  • Albert's Mum | 7-Jun-2013 1:18 pm

    "When you hear her on things like BBC radio 4, etc, Cummings does seem to know what is happening. The problem seems to be what PDave Angel pointed out: if she rocks the boat, she will be for the chop."

    Seriously? You think that she knows what is happening? I cringe every time I see her on news or current affairs programmes or hear her on Radio 4. In a recent interview on the BBC Sunday Politics, two doctors who were in discussion with her and the interviewer, had to come to the rescue of nurses when it was suggested (by the interveiwer) that we lack compassion. Cummings launched into an incoherent, stuttering acceptance of this assertion. She had to be interrupted by one of the doctor's who rubbished the claim and then robustly defended the fantastic nurses of the NHS, and turned the attack on the policies which prevent NHS staff from being able to do their jobs. The other doctor jumped in to agree. The CNO was rendered mute.

    She is not supposed to be a government puppet. If she is too scared to stand up to the government and lead the nurses of this country, then she shouldn't be in the job. Simple. Fear of losing it is no excuse for sitting on your hands and doing nothing. It is stunning that anyone should think that fear of the "chop" is a reason for ineffectual leadership. I thought 'courage' was supposed to be one of the 6 Cs. Hmmm.

    When you aim so low and are content with such a CNO, it no surprise that nursing is in its current state.

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  • The only people who really know what is/or isn't going on in the NHS hospitals is: The Patients; and, The Nursing staff. Their opinions don't count. The Davy ( Posh boy) cameron and his Government couldn't care a toss, which is why he is quite happy to give our taxes to world aide funds rather than invest the money in our desperately deprived and deteriorating public sectors.

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