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Future CNO role undecided

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England will continue to have a chief nursing officer - but uncertainty remains over the nature of the role.

Fears had been growing that the government was planning to axe the role of CNO following the retirement of incumbent Dame Christine Beasley.

Nursing Times understands it is increasingly likely that the CNO post could be split into two senior nursing posts - one overseeing public health and the other sitting on the new national commissioning board, which will be responsible for NHS spending on behalf of the government.

Dame Christine formally announced she would be retiring in March at her chief nursing officer’s summit last week, but told delegates details of the future of the role were still under discussion.

She said: “I’m leaving at a time of great change. It would be very nice if I could make a very simple announcement but, because of the times and some of the changes that are happening, we are still working on how those systems will work - whether [the CNO role] is on the commissioning board or the Department of Health.

“There is a real commitment to having that sort of senior nurse leadership. We need to work out what it looks like and I think we’ll get clarity fairly soon.”

Speaking separately to Nursing Times, Dame Christine said: “My strong personal view is that a clinician and clinically led services could offer an important perspective on the national commissioning board.”

The DH said arrangements were being made to appoint an interim CNO. Positions on the commissioning board are not expected to be filled until October.

Talking later at the summit, health minister Anne Milton said “there will be another CNO”, quashing speculation that the post would be lost. However, she referred to it in terms of its involvement with the proposed public health service, rather than the overall NHS.

Ms Milton said a “high level” of nursing input would be vital to the public health service. She said: “There will always be a senior nurse leader to oversee this.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “She was quite clear that there will be a CNO. In relation to the remit, I think, like everything, it’s up for discussion.”

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