Doctors’ leaders have rowed back on plans for a vote of no confidence in England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings over her comments on regional NHS plans, after it was thought the move could be seen as a personal attack.
The motion, tabled by consultant oncologist Dr Clive Peedell, was due to be debated at a British Medical Association council meeting today.
However, the BMA has confirmed a no-confidence debate did not take place in the end, although “the doctors did discuss their concerns around her views on STPs [Sustainability and Transformation Plans]”.
Dr Peedell took the unusual step of proposing a vote of no confidence in the CNO because of a recent article by Professor Cummings in which she discussed the 44 STPs being developed jointly by NHS trusts and local councils.
The piece, originally published in the Telegraph and subsequently as a blog by NHS England, provoked an angry response from those who see STPs as a mechanism for crippling budget cuts and the closure of services as part of NHS England’s efforts to save £22bn by 2020.
Dr Peedell, who is co-founder and former leader of the National Health Action Party, said he felt the article showed Professor Cummings supported plans “that would harm patient care” and her position was therefore “untenable”.
“I can see how it was seen as a personal attack, but I didn’t mean it that way…I stand by my view that [the CNO] was wrong to support STPs”
However, he told Nursing Times he was persuaded to alter his motion by colleagues who were concerned a no confidence vote could be seen as a personal attack.
Instead he said the BMA council debated the motion: “That council deplores the chief nursing officer’s publically stated support for sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) that are the mechanism to achieve 22bn pounds of NHS efficiency savings, which will plunge the NHS into further crisis and put public health at risk.”
Dr Peedell said the motion was not passed, despite the fact “many council members are worried the CNO so openly supported STPs”, because members still felt it was “too personal”.
“I am obviously disappointed but it is understandable,” he said. “I can see how it was seen as a personal attack, but I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I’m primarily concerned about the effect of £22bn more cuts on patient care. I stand by my view that [the CNO] was wrong to support STPs,” he said.
Earlier today Hilary Garratt, NHS England’s director of nursing and deputy CNO, described the events as a “rather odd attack by a consultant on a nurse”.
She claimed Dr Peedell had been “systematically misrepresenting what was actually said” in Professor Cummings’ article.