England’s most senior nurse has signalled that she is to step down from her role in the near future, while also unveiling ambitions to reform the country’s nursing leadership structure.
The chief nursing officer for England Professor Jane Cummings has announced today that she will be retiring from the role after more than six years and nearly 40 working in the NHS.
“It has been an honour and privilege to be the professional lead for over 500,000 nurses and midwives”
No date has yet been set for her departure from the role, an NHS England spokeswoman confirmed to Nursing Times. However, it is likely that she will remain in post for at least the next six months.
Professor Cummings has said that, during her time left as CNO, she will work to combine existing senior nursing roles that currently sit across NHS England and the regulator NHS Improvement.
She has recommended to the NHS England board that the CNO should be the executive nurse lead for both it and NHS Improvement, as the organisations “move towards greater alignment”.
She said in a statement that she would play an “instrumental role in supporting the alignment of the two nursing teams across NHS England and NHS Improvement over the next six months”.
“For some months, I have argued that there should also be one nursing voice nationally”
The CNO currently has two deputies based across both national bodies. Deputy chief nursing officer Hilary Garrett is located within NHS England, while Dr Ruth May is both deputy CNO and executive chief nurse at NHS Improvement.
The current leadership structure of nursing at national level in England has faced questions since its inception in the wake of the NHS reforms that saw many of the functions of the Department of Health passed to arms’-length bodies.
The CNO role used to be based at the department, along with two deputies and a team. However, the government split the CNO role at the department into two new senior positions and relocated them, with a CNO based at NHS England and a director of nursing at Public Health England.
With the formal creation of the new health service regulator NHS Improvement in April 2016 – which replaced Monitor and several other bodies – a third senior national nursing role was created.
- NHS Improvement appoints first exec nursing director
- NHS regulator’s top nurse outlines support schemes
- Exclusive: New regulator’s senior nurse targets staffing
However, some in the profession, including the Royal College of Nursing, have repeatedly questioned the value of moving the CNO out of the Department of Health and warned that the current number of senior nurse roles risks diluting the nursing voice at the highest level.
The high profile Francis report into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, published in 2013, also said “effectiveness of the newly positioned office” of CNO should be kept under review.
- Francis response: Split CNO role to be kept under review
- Exclusive: DH jobs threat stokes fear of fall in nurse influence
- Exclusive: nursing’s voice is stronger after NHS reforms, insists CNO
In contrast to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have so far all retained a single chief nursing officer post.
The intention to merge the senior nursing roles across NHS England and NHS Improvement comes at the same time as the two organisations revealed wider plans to work more closely together. They were due to discuss the next steps at a joint board meeting this afternoon.
They are also likely to see NHS England and NHS Improvement move to a single “financial and operational planning and performance” regime under a shared chief finance officer.
Professor Cummings was appointed as CNO for England in March 2012, after holding a number of senior roles in the North of England.
In December that year she oversaw the publishing of the Compassion in Practice national nursing strategy, which incorporated the “6Cs” of nursing.
In 2016, she went on to develop its successor Leading Change, Adding Value, which is the current national framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, she announced a major national nursing recruitment campaign to launch this summer as the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday.
“It is Jane who has initiated what is about to be the largest nurse recruitment campaign in recent times”
She is also currently NHS England’s lead executive director for learning disabilities, maternity equality and diversity, and patient participation and experience.
In addition, since September 2017, Professor Cummings has also been NHS England’s regional director in London. She will also be retiring from this role.
Announcing her departure, Professor Cummings said: “I believe passionately in nursing and midwifery and that the professions and the NHS benefit if we speak with one voice.
“In the South and London regions I have backed a single chief nurse leading for both NHS Improvement and NHS England,” said the CNO.
“For some months, I have argued that there should also be one nursing voice nationally and I hope the boards accept my recommendation that there should be a single chief nurse for both organisations,” said Professor Cummings.
“To lead and deliver this change, will require a commitment of several years and following more than six years as chief nursing officer and nearly 40 in the NHS, I feel it is appropriate that someone else should take on this challenge,” she said.
“Jane has worked tirelessly to represent and promote nursing as an attractive, dynamic and modern career”
She added: “It has been an honour and privilege to be the professional lead for over 500,000 nurses and midwives who make an incredible difference to people when they need it most.
“Over the next six months, my focus will be to support the alignment of the two nursing teams across NHS England and NHS Improvement and lead the celebrations for the NHS in its 70th year,” she said. “I will also launch the biggest recruitment campaign for new nurses for many years.
“I am grateful to have had such a varied and interesting career to date,” she said. “I have had the opportunity to work with many talented and inspiring people and most recently with those committed to improving healthcare across London.”
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Jane is a passionate advocate for nursing and midwifery, who has done so much to ensure the voice of nurses is heard loud and clear across the health service.
simon stevens confed 1
Source: Neil O’Connor
“Her personal leadership has helped the NHS create new routes into nursing, safer maternity care, more personalised support for people with learning disabilities, and above all a renewed focus on compassionate high quality care,” he said.
“As we approach the 70th anniversary of the NHS’s foundation, it is Jane who has initiated what is about to be the largest nurse recruitment campaign in recent times,” said Mr Stevens.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Jane has worked tirelessly to represent and promote nursing as an attractive, dynamic and modern career.
“At a time when the profession faces significant challenges over recruitment, retention and staffing levels, she has provided both leadership and passion,” she said.
Regarding closer working between NHS England and NHS Improvement, Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “It’s good to see the NHS acknowledging things haven’t quite worked out as intended when the two organisations were created.
“The changes are a welcome attempt to usher in clearer accountability and better working between the main NHS bodies,” she said.
Biography: Professor Jane Cummings
Jane Cummings is the executive lead for the nursing directorate at NHS England which includes maternity, learning disability, equality and diversity, patient participation and experience.
She is the professional lead for nursing and midwifery in England and in September 2017 took up an interim role as regional director for London.
A registered nurse specialising in emergency care, Jane has held a wide variety of clinical and managerial roles including director of commissioning, director of nursing and deputy chief executive.
In February 2004, she became the national lead for emergency care and was responsible for agreeing, implementing and delivering the 98% four-hour operational standard.
England’s chief nurse to oversee health service in the capital
Professor Cummings moved to NHS North West in November 2007 where she held executive responsibility for the professional leadership of nursing, quality, performance, QIPP and commissioning. In October 2011 she was appointed as the chief nurse for the North of England SHA cluster.
Jane was appointed as chief nursing officer for England in March 2012. As CNO, she is the government’s advisor and professional lead for nursing and midwifery in England (with the exception of public health).
She created the ‘6Cs’ and published Compassion in Practice in December 2012. Patient surveys have shown an increase in the number of people saying that they were treated with care and compassion.
This was followed by the Leading Change, Adding Value framework in May 2016 and recently launched the Perceptions of Nursing and midwifery programme to encourage recruitment and retention and support a national campaign.
As regional director for London, Professor Cummings oversees £18bn of NHS commissioning and works with five STP systems to deliver care to a population of 8.8 million across the capital.
She was awarded a doctorate by Edge Hill University, a doctorate by New Bucks University, and is a visiting professor at Kingston University and St George’s University, London.
She is also a trustee for Macmillan Cancer Support and a clinical ambassador for the Over the Wall Children’s Charity where she volunteers as a nurse, providing care for children affected by serious illnesses.