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CNO role may face axe


Nurses are calling on the government to retain the chief nursing officer role amid fears it will be removed or diminished when Dame Christine Beasley retires.

Dame Christine is expected to step down next March and several senior sources have told Nursing Times there are strong concerns that the government will remove the chief nursing officer post as part of its reforms.

If we don’t have a senior representative understanding the nursing world we’re going to end up with some rather strange decisions being made

There may be a senior national nurse as a member of the proposed national commissioning board, but they are likely to have less influence and profile, sources said.

University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust’s outgoing nurse director Louise Boden said there were good reasons for the government to have a strong national nursing representative.

She said: “Nursing is too important to the economy, and too embedded in the British psyche and consciousness, to be left to individual hospitals.”

Ms Boden said if the post was axed it would place more responsibility on individual nursing directors, because “nursing directors would be accountable in a way that at the moment partly goes through the DH.”

Another experienced nursing director said removing the CNO role would make it more difficult for nursing directors to escalate concerns.

Appointed to the role in 2004, Dame Christine is one of the most senior civil servants in the Department of Health and earns £140,000-£145,000 a year in basic pay.

She advises the government and international organisations on nursing policy and provides professional leadership to nurses across England.

Foundation of Nursing Leadership head Dave Dawes said it was important to have a senior nurse at the heart of government, rather than in an external body such as the commissioning board, to counter civil servants’ lack of nursing knowledge.

He said: “Nursing is by far the largest element of the workforce and accounts for most of the expenditure in the NHS. If we don’t have a senior representative understanding the nursing world we’re going to end up with some rather strange decisions being made.”

A very high profile role was needed, he said, because “there don’t seem to be prominent nursing directors who are prepared to speak out anymore”.

Royal College of Nursing director of policy Howard Catton said a senior nursing leader was needed at the commissioning board as well as in the DH.

Without this, he said he would “worry about both bodies being able to fulfil their functions and responsibilities”.

There was no reason why the DH could not state its commitment, in principle, to retaining the CNO post, he added.

But asked by Nursing Times about the future of the CNO role, including whether it would continue after Dame Christine’s departure, a DH spokeswoman would only say: “Dame Christine Beasley has yet to make an official announcement about her retirement.”


Readers' comments (25)

  • To be honest, what has she done exactly to make this post essential to Nursing?

    We still have poor working conditions that have a profound adverse effect on patient safety and care. We still have pathetically low pay and noone actually speaking up for us (where is all this high profile leadership then?) We still have job freezes and low staffing levels. We still have those "rather strange decisions being made” and ridiculous policies by non clinical staff at the top, etc etc etc.

    And what has she done to change all this? What has she done to justify her £140,000-£145,000 a year pay (when each staff nurse is on a pathetic fraction of that!) Nothing.

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  • I love these articles on here: "Nurses are calling on the government to retain the chief nursing officer role amid fears it will be removed or diminished when Dame Christine Beasley retires."

    Well, Its not really nurses calling for this is it NT? I could be completely wrong, but it seems to me that the only people who are getting a sweat-on, the only ones who give a you-know-what are the ones that are eyeing the job up for themselves in the future. I must've missed all the quotes from band 5 nurses expressing their distress and concern at this shocking news! Dame who?

    Get rid of her and the rest of the layers of cling-ons and meeting goers that seem to fester in the NHS and other government bodies.

    I'd get rid of the NMC too. We could have one body that all PAM's register with which I'm sure would bring down the cost of registering.

    Nursing and the NHS needs a good clear out and shake up!

    Whinge over.

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  • Ok, here is a comment from someone who is not 'eyeing up the job'. A lot of our working conditions are due to the so called profession of nursing being treated as second class citizens and the way individual Trusts perform and treat us. If we do not remain high profile (are the axing the Chief Medical Officer), we are down rating ourselves even more. The commentators so far do not seem to realise that without high level input we will be even worse off.

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  • If the above commenter believes that nursing is currently high profile and that this high profile is due to the work of the CNO, then I must be living and practicing in a parallel universe. I bet without the aid of Google, most nurses wouldn’t be able to name the CNO let alone name one thing that she has done that’s made things better for nurses.

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  • All these fancy roles, such as Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Nursing at an Acute Trust, what do any of them do???

    They are in for the power and for the opportunity to be put on the Queens Honours List! What about those of us who keep the organisations going and how many Front Line staff would recognise the (un)remarkable people. And would a Director of Nursing roll her hands up nowadays and give nursing care - I know of one who would and she works in Birmingham and is a realist, but the rest of them, pointless!!!!

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  • High profile?
    Stoppit I'll wet meself!

    It is a puppet post and might as well go. I too would get rid of the NMC and have a cheaper organisation covering all PAMs.

    I would also give more power to ward sisters and cut the burgeoning numbers of 8b and c managers who spend most of their lives chasing paper around. I currently am a practice educator but spend most of my time doing 'project work' and only really enjoy the clinical time I can get! Currently looking for a SSN or SN post...

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  • If we are going to light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks about the NMC, why don't we put them under pressure to move out of their des res in Central London?

    Ship them out to Milton Keynes - or better still somewhere in the Midlands, much cheaper rates, less expensive in terms of logisitics in paying fares and hotel stays etc.

    As for the CNO position, they undoubtedly do some good work for the profession, but whether or not that represents good value for money is another matter.

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  • I think that many of the commentators are missing the point because they don't know what Christine Beasley or their own Directors of Nursing do and assume that this means they aren't doing anything.

    I suggest that people actually find out what they do before being so happy to get rid of them. For goodness sake if we don't value senior Nurses who act on our behalf what hope is there of any one else respecting or valuing Nurses or Nursing?

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  • Tom Bolger

    I have been a nurse for 40 years and have no interest in the job!.
    Who needs to know the name of the Chief Nurse? That's just about personality not impact.
    Get real. The fact is that every time the Tories get into power they talk about cutting this post. Why is that? Well I maintain it is because they don't like what they hear from the Chief Nurse as they go about trying to wreck the NHS, which they have been trying to do for the last 30 years (Blair didn't help much either).
    The role is under threat because in reality it does make a real positive difference to the delivery of health care in the front line.
    You let them scrap it and just watch even more cheap and cheerful ineffective alternatives to professional nurses being introduced by the right wing idealogues and the bean counters.

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  • I think I understand the discontent expressed in some of the postings. Many nurses wander what the CNO has acheived since she was appointed to the role. However, we have to understand that she has not had as much influence on national healthcare as the CMO. Irrespective of this reduced influence, the role of the CNO, I believe, has helped to keep the image of nursing in national view. To remove this role and replace it with an even less influencial one will further stiffen nurses' voices. If anything, I believe the role of CNO should be strengthened in influence. The more influence the role carries, the more the CNO is able to acheive for nurses, and ultimately for the patients.

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