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Jane Cummings: 'I want to achieve pride in the profession'


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.”


Readers' comments (37)

  • '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.'

    Yes - unless people do speak out, they cannot be heard: if they are not heard, their potential audience remains uninformed.

    I like the piece, but it looks very much a challenge if all nurses are over-worked ?

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  • HAHAHAHAHAHA!! What a load of rubbish!!!

    I will repeat my post from a recent article which stated we should be proud to be a nurse!!


    What exactly are we supposed to be proud of here? Being a nurse or the NHS? Because I'm sorry but I see nothing in the nursing profession to be proud of anymore.

    The NHS was perhaps one of if not the best thing this country has ever done. And I agree that was something we could be proud of. Once. But now the NHS is in its death throes, and will not be around in the form that we know it in 5 years time. Future generations will look back in envy at what we used to have.

    As for the profession, no. There is nothing to be proud of. There used to be, as with all professions such as ours, the police, the fire service, the military, teachers, etc, we could be proud that we were doing something important, we were a part of something bigger and better than ourselves. And as for the first anon, yes people who sacrifice a lot to fill those roles ARE special. But in nursing, that pride has long gone. I became a nurse to help people, tocare for them and nurse them, to heal them, as I'm sure did many of us. But I spent every day I worked fighting a system that did not allow us to do that. There were some amazing people I met along the way who excelled at doing this in spite of the system, and yes they did for a time instill some pride in me. I was proud to call myself a nurse because despite everything we were helping people. I do still agree that in and of itself should be something to be proud of, but we are not doing that anymore, are we. Are we really helping and treating patients or just praying that the conditions we are forced to work with such as seriously unsafe staffing levels won't have an adverse effect on their care? I spent too long working under extreme conditions, not being able to give the care and help that I knew I should be giving, that I WANTED to give, because of those conditions. I spent too long seeing good nurses burned out, leaving in tears at the end of a shift, being bullied and harrassed by the powers that be and even members of our own profession. What is there to be proud at when our so called profession has to endure conditions like that?

    Also look at what the 'profession' has become, despite being a highly educated, skilled and essential workforce, we are seen as and treated as second class handmaidens by our management, the trust heirarchy, the government, the public and the media (just look at your recent article which may as well be titled 'should we use our degree level education and clinical skills to mop a floor instead of caring for and treating our patients'; we still get asked questions such as 'all these degrees and you are JUST a nurse?' as if we are something inferior. And what do we do to combat this image? Nothing. We are too busy bitching and moaning and stabbing each other in the back. We had a chance to stand up and fight, not only for our pensions, but our pay, our working conditions and even the future of the NHS itself, yet what did we do? Nothing. Nada. ZIp. Zilch. Absolutely f**k all!!!!

    I used to be proud to be a nurse. Not anymore. I'm glad I quit my job and found work outside of the NHS and nursing where I am better paid, looked after, have better working conditions and a work life balance, less stress and more time with my friends and family, and I am much, much better off in every way. You tell me Jenni, what is there to be proud of in a profession that allows its staff to feel that way?"

    And 6 'Cs' are supposed to change all that?

    The only thing the PM is interested about in nursing is how to destroy and dismantle us, and that goes for previous PMs too, not just Cameron.

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  • Jane. I think you are going to be as depressing and miserable a CNO as the previous lot. Look luv, just go and water your pot plants, or something. leave us to our misery, because you sure ain't helping any.

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  • Hear Hear, Anonymous 12.17pm

    I left the UK to live in France because I was simply too scared to stay in the UK and risk ever needing to be looked after by the NHS.

    Having seen the appalling standard of care received by many of my friends and family, I was terririfed of ever having to be in that position myself.

    I will never again be proud to call myself a Registered Nurse.

    A third year student being in charge of a ward would at least make her more competent when qualified - and third year students in my experience were never complacent - which is more than can be said for many trained staff nowadays.

    Doesn't matter how many C's are dreamed up; it still won't make the profession any better....

    Better selection, improved recruitment, better staffing levels, less unneccesary paperwork and finally, spending more time with real live sick people with competent mentoring. They are the things which will improve the standard of care. No good talking about compassion when it is so sadly lacking in so many places.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Aug-2012 1:02 pm

    same here, and I think I will now have to remain in exile for the rest of my days to ensure I get some care.

    Quelle tristesse!

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  • Jane Cummings is a joke. This is the woman who a few months ago refused to acknowledge the link between inadequate staffing levels and inadequate care. The majority of her six C's require adequate staffing levels. It is disingenuous of her to spout platitudes without first acknowledging that adequate staffing levels are fundamental to good quality of care.
    As for nurses speaking out, to my knowledge nurses who have done so have been bullied and victimised by senior nurses, as well as senior management. Because of this, most nurses are afraid to speak out, or know from experience that their concerns will be ignored and trivialised.
    Senior management nowadays want to run wards on a shoestring and one has to question whether they are really interested in quality of care. What happened at Stafford Hospital is a good example of this. Senior Management Staff put cost-cutting and Government targets before care, and patients were caused ‘unimaginable suffering’, it was said in findings published. It is probably only a matter of time before a similar incident happens. And having someone like Jane Cummings as CNO unfortunately does not fill me with confidence that nurses concerns will be heard at Government level

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  • Well said ----ALL of you.

    For some time now I have been forcefully expressing my opinion of "Management" and the total tosh which they spout.

    Cummings is just another sycophant as was demonstrated by her refusal to acknowledge the link between inadequate staffing levels and the provision of inadequate care. If she cared to look there are reams of published research which demonstrate poor staffing = poor outcomes. Unfortunately Cummings ignores the evidence as it does not meet with her bosses approval!

    We can expect no real support for the profession from this woman who is best described as being a token talking head.

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  • Anon 12:17. Says it all and then some.

    I can think of a few c's
    crap working conditions with little or no breaks
    crap thrown at us by relatives with no comeback or consequences
    crap thrown at us by patients with(see above)
    crap amounts of pointless paper work that is rarely read
    as for Ms Cummings at least she has her Dame hood to look forward to

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  • Listen all this negativity must be viewed in perspective - there is a recession and many professions are under stress and people feel undervalued - individually and collectively...nurses are no different.
    Channel concerns in the appropriate direction - if managers don't listen it could be because they are feeling disempowered too. Caring must always be central to all we do as nurses - and we must seek resourceful ways to maintain and nurture this caring side of our profession. We must stand up and shout from the rooftops, write to newspapers about real events that are challenging our ability to care for patients - if all of us are passionate enough about the actual / perceived dangers lurking then it is incumbent on all of us to do something about it - if not for ourselves then do it for other nurses and for our patients. Lets channel this big negativity moan and do something more worthwhile - write to politicians, to newspapers, to the CEO - tell them how cuts in resources are affecting patients and be prepared to offer solutions to improve the state of our healthcare services. Apathy breeds apathy and the cycle only continues - keep chipping away and lets not give up sticking up for our patients.

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  • Wow what negative comments. But unfortunately I agree with them. I have never felt so let down by the NHS not as a patient but as an employee. Never a thought for the welfare of its staff. The first C we take care of people - well I for one do not feel taken care of nor do my colleagues morale is at an all time low. Start by treating the staff with some respect.

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