We talk to the new chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, about her new role and hopes for the future
The new chief nursing officer role on the NHS Commissioning Board has confused some people. But Jane Cummings, who has been in post since June, says that the restructuring of senior nurse roles within the Department of Health has actually gives nursing a greater voice.
Speaking in her first full interview in post, she said having a CNO, as well as Viv Bennett’s new role as director of nursing in public health at the DH, gives nurses two senior and powerful voices to represent the profession and gives the government two principal advisors on nursing.
But Ms Cummings knows her role requires clarity. “This is not the traditional CNO role. But I explain it by saying that I am CNO England. [NHS chief executive] David Nicholson tends to introduce me [at events] as CNO England, not as CNO of the NHS Commissioning Board,” she says.
“That makes it easier for [the audience] to understand. I am the professional lead for all nurses and midwives in England, except public health nurses, school nurses and health visitors, for whom Viv is the professional lead.”
Ms Cummings will be concerned with patient safety and experience as well as staff engagement and safeguarding.
Meanwhile, Professor Bennett will work on public health, and strategy and policy around new ways of working and health visitors. Both will work together to implement these into a strategy, or what both senior nurses have come together to describe as the “new narrative for nursing”.
That new “vision” for the profession is built around “six Cs”. As revealed by Nursing Times, Ms Cummings first introduced five of them to the profession in a meeting in July with 50 high-level nursing representatives from acute trusts, primary care, commissioning, management, unions and academia.
The six Cs are:
- Care – “what we do day-to-day, we take care of people”
- Compassion – “not what we do, but how we do it, treating patients with dignity and respect”
- Commitment – “there needs to be a nursing commitment to improve outcomes and do the right thing”
- Communication – “we must think about the way we communicate with colleagues and managers as well as patients, relatives and carers, but this C is also about me and my desire to use social media to engage more and deliver key messages”
- Courage – “being brave enough to do the right thing and speak up when you are not happy with something your organisation is doing”
- Competence – a high level of competence is required to deliver support and advice that affects lifestyle changes that benefit the health and wellbeing of families and communities
Ms Cummings told Nursing Times: “The outcomes I want to achieve are: pride in the profession – I want people to feel proud to tell someone they are a nurse; respect for nurses and midwives; and safe and effective care with good patient experience.”
She said she was aware that public confidence in nursing “is at all-time low”. But she said focusing on her vision and the six Cs would enable the profession to focus on quality, and help “to identify the nursing contribution to health outcomes and build public confidence and promote nursing as an incredible career”.
Ms Cummings was also keen to ensure that the profession does not dwell too much on the past, believing that many nurses and former nurses re-write history inaccurately in harking back to former times.
“People in the profession talk about things being much better in the past, but this isn’t true. I remember as a third year student being left in charge of a busy acute ward. This wouldn’t happen today. We need to identify what is better and take the best of where we’ve come from,” she says.
She welcomes the prime minister’s recent focus on nursing. Although she admits she has not had a lot of personal contact with him since taking over the post, she has been to No 10 with the delegation from the Nursing and Care Quality Forum.
“The prime minister continues to have an active interest in nursing – just as he demonstrated in January when he made those announcements when launching the Nursing and Care Quality Forum.
“I know the government, like me, want less negative press about nursing and for the public to recognise that we are improving quality, effectiveness, safety and the experience agenda,” she told Nursing Times.
Ms Cummings contends that nurses go into the profession to make a difference. “That’s certainly what I did,” she points out.
Having provided palliative care for her husband during a long-term illness some six years ago, she says she has empathy and understanding for patients, relatives and carers, and believes it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the care provided is of a high enough standard.
She believes that the recent high-profile cases of poor care that have been exposed in the media would be helped by nurses feeling able to speak out.
“I love that quote in the NHS Constitution where it talks about the organisation belonging to us all. I also love the [US author] Alice Walker quote about the most common way that people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.
“When I give talks to nurses, I show pictures of my late husband and my young nieces. They show that I understand the importance of good nursing and also my nieces focus me on ensuring that we continue to have a good NHS – the NHS that we build now will be the one that they will be using. That motivates me.”