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Ruth May revealed as new chief nursing officer for England

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Ruth May will take over from Jane Cummings as England’s next chief nursing officer, it has been announced.

Dr May will take up the post as part of a new joint leadership team between NHS England and the regulator NHS Improvement, called the NHS Executive Group.

“She will be a powerful and passionate voice for nursing in England”

Donna Kinnair

The structural overhaul has allowed the two organisations to cut their running costs by a further 20%.

Professor Cummings was based at NHS England only.

The CNO role had formerly been situated at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The Royal College of Nursing is among those that have questioned the value of moving the chief nurse away from the heart of the government.

Currently one of England’s deputy chief nursing officers, Dr May has been executive director of nursing at NHS Improvement since its creation in April 2016.

Prior to that she was the nursing director at one of NHS Improvement’s predecessor organisations, Monitor.

Previous senior roles held by Dr May include regional chief nurse and nurse director for the Midlands and East region of NHS England, and chief executive of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, and Mid-Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust.

She has also worked as acting director of nursing at Barnet Hospital, and has held top positions with Havering Primary Care Trust.

Dr May began her career with a variety of nursing roles before becoming a theatre sister at Frimley Park Hospital in Camberley.

Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said she was “delighted” with Dr May’s appointment.

“I am proud and excited to work as a registered nurse for an NHS under your leadership”

Joseph Manning 

She added: ”Ruth brings many years of nursing and leadership experience to the role, and has worked closely with the college during her time as executive director of nursing at NHS Improvement.

”She will be a powerful and passionate voice for nursing in England within the new NHS group,” she said. 

However, Dame Donna added that the RCN still wanted to see a chief nurse post reinstated at the DHSC.

She said: “Nursing staff will be at the heart of all plans to provide care fit for the 21st century and the nurse leadership voice is crucial to the broad health and care policy debate.”

Sue Killen, interim chief executive of Nursing and Midwifery Council, said Dr May would make a “worthy successor” to Professor Cummings.

She added: ”She is already a great ambassador for the nursing community and has a real depth of knowledge when it comes to what matters to nurses.”

Other leading nursing figures turned to social media forum Twitter to welcome the annoucement. 

Mark Radford, director of nursing (improvement) at NHS Improvement, said Dr May’s appointment was “great” for the nursing profession.

David Munday, a health visitor, nurse and lead professional officer for mental health at the union Unite, congratulated Dr May and added: “Just waiting for the NHS 10 [year] plan to be published now so we can get on with job at hand, including addressing cuts to many areas of the nursing workforce.

“Hoping mental health nursing gets the much needed priority in 2019 and beyond,” Mr Munday said.

Clinical academic nurse Joseph Manning said he was “so delighted” to hear of Dr May’s appointment.

Dr Manning added: “I am proud and excited to work as a registered nurse for an NHS under your leadership.”

Professor Cummings also passed her congratulations to Dr May over Twitter.

Ian Dalton and Simon Stevens, chief executives of NHS Improvement and NHS England respectively, will chair the new NHS Executive Group.

Pauline Philip, who is a nurse by background, has also been confirmed as the new national director for emergency and elective care.

Other appointments announced today include:

  • Julian Kelly as NHS chief financial officer;
  • Stephen Powis as national NHS medical director;
  • Matthew Swindells as deputy chief executive of NHS England;
  • Ian Dodge as national director for strategy and innovation;
  • Emily Lawson as national director for transformation and corporate development.

Under the new structure there will be seven regional teams each with their own director. 

The NHS Executive Group is set to hold its first meeting in January 2019, with the new directors expected to start work by April.

Mr Stevens said the latest appointments were an ”important milestone in the closer working arrangement between NHS England and NHS Improvement”.

Mr Dalton added: “With these appointments, we have secured a number of exceptional leaders to join the NHS Executive Group.

“Each of these individuals has shown determination to work alongside the NHS to support improvement and passion for delivering better care for patients,” he said.

Three leaders at NHS Improvement have announced their departure. They are Steve Russell, executive regional managing director for London; Lyn Simpson, executive regional managing director for the North; and Adam Sewell-Jones, executive director of improvement.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • So the leadership have amalgamated with the regulator. That seems like a conflict of interest to me. What happened when the audit industry got too cosy with business? Carillion went bust, with possibly more such insolvencies to come. When the regulators adopted a "light touch" approach to banking regulation, what happened in 2008? Seems to me that the NHS will get into even worse financial straits, while much of the 20% savings will go into the pockets of administrators as bonuses for making such savings. God help us.

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