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.
- The CNO has also written an exclusive opinion piece this week in Nusing Times: Jane Cummings: ‘We have refined our strategy following the Francis report’
Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.