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'We are starting a new chapter in nurse leadership'

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Yesterday, after months of speculation or at least expectation, it was finally revealed that Dr Ruth May will be the next chief nursing officer (CNO) for England.

The shortlist for the role was apparently very short indeed, with some suggesting that there were perhaps only one or two names. But regardless, I think the right person got the job.

Of course, as ever with the NHS, there is an accompanying structural change. Dr May will take up the CNO post as part of a new joint leadership team between NHS England and the regulator NHS Improvement, called the NHS Executive Group.

She is already executive chief nurse of NHS Improvement and a deputy CNO for England, and has, as a result, been involved in many key decisions since the outgoing CNO, Jane Cummings, announced her departure.

”I am confident she will be a powerful advocate for the profession”

At NHS Improvement, Dr May has led national work to boost nurse retention and reduce pressure ulcers, among other things. Her previous CV is also pretty glowing, as she has been a regional chief nurse and chief executive at several trusts.

I should also point out that she has been a long-standing member of the Nursing Times advisory board. Since I have known her, she has never been afraid to speak out on behalf of the profession and therefore I am confident she will be a powerful advocate for the profession.

There will still be those that believe the role of CNO for England should be more closely aligned with the Department of Health and Social Care, as it used to be and still is in other parts of the UK.

However, Dr May will be the most senior nurse advisor to the government regardless of what her exact title is and where she is actually based. Nursing Times wishes her luck and good judgment.

No doubt, one of her first jobs will be to oversee the nursing parts of the new NHS long-term plan, which is expected imminently – when exactly probably depends on Brexit developments. Hopefully, if it is revealed over the next week or so, it will prove to be a decent Christmas present for nursing and the NHS.

On the subject of leadership, I want to highlight two other individuals of note. The first is Edmund Tabay, who, as deputy chief nurse of the Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, is the highest-ranking Filipino nurse in the UK

He is our Role Model in the December issue of Nursing Times and spoke to us about the challenges he faced early in his career and why he is proud to be a nurse. His story has been a sensation on social media and is currently riding high among the most-read articles on our website.

The second is at the start of her career. Student Nursing Times editor Felicity Allman this week received an award from the #150Leaders scheme run by the Council of Deans of Health, in partnership with the Burdett Trust for Nursing.

The student mental health nurse said that winning the Top #150leaders mentor partnership award left her feeling “a little bit overwhelmed”. Another one of our student editors, Ian Unitt, was nominated for an award at the event. Well done to both.

There have been warnings about a lack of new leaders coming through in nursing and, with all this year’s changes, at the top of the profession, I think we can be positive that, while we may be nearing the end of the year, we are starting a new chapter in nurse leadership.

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