Nurse leaders will be “absolutely critical” in helping the profession cope with the current staffing pressures and criticism from the public, the head of the NHS has said.
Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, acknowledged last week that nurse leaders were doing a “remarkable job” supporting staff through some “very difficult and challenging times”.
“The NHS and the nursing profession are undoubtedly under pressure,” he told delegates at the chief nursing officer’s annual conference in Manchester.
But he added: “Over the next few years the [nursing] workforce will not grow and in some places and circumstances it will decline. The importance of nurse leadership, the importance of managing that workforce in ever better ways is absolutely critical.
“That is a great challenge for the leadership over the next period.”
Sir David also highlighted the pressure faced by the NHS and nursing in relation to its ability to “deliver care and compassion”, noting that strong leadership was also needed to meet this challenge.
“We need to be relentless in our determination to root out poor practice, to make sure people not providing the best care are either developed and helped and supported or have to leave the service,” he said. “The role of nurse leadership in this is really, really important.”
However, he paid tribute to the current quality of nurse leadership in the NHS, which he described as the “best it’s ever been”.
Sir David also pledged that the NHS Commissioning Board would support the implementation of the nursing strategy.
“We need to support nurses, we need to help them do their jobs better. I can absolutely tell you the commissioning board is completely committed to this strategy’s sense of direction.”
In addition, Sir David, who is currently on paternity leave and sent a message to the conference via video, paid tribute to the maternity care he and his partner recently received from their midwife.
“She gave that level of assurance and professionalism and competence that you want in a midwife when you are putting your future and your baby’s future in their hands.”