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Health minister says chief nursing officer role will remain

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Health minister Anne Milton has insisted there will be a new chief nursing officer for England when Dame Christine Beasley retires next year, apparently quashing speculation the Department of Health was considering axing the post.

Dame Christine officially announced her retirement in March yesterday at her chief nursing officer’s summit in London, describing it as the “worst kept secret”.

In a statement announcing the retirement, the Department of Health said the post would be filled by an interim, fuelling growing speculation over the last few weeks on whether the government was considering abolishing or diminishing the role.

Speaking at the same conference today, Ms Milton was emphatic in her response to a question from a delegate about the future of the CNO role. She said: “There will be another CNO.”

Ms Milton paid tribute to Dame Christine’s contribution as CNO during the past six years and said a “high level” of nursing input would be vital as the government developed the new public health service, which will be set up as part of its radical health reform programme.

She said: “There will always be a senior nurse leader to oversee this.”

Ms Milton, a former nurse, also told delegates there would be a role for nurses in the new commissioning landscape.

She said: “GP commissioning will in fact be cross-professional commissioning. We will use all the tools in the toolbox: nurses, midwives, occupational therapists, everyone will be involved in the design and delivery of services.”

However, when asked by Nursing Times whether nurses’ role in commissioning would be statutory, she said it would be up to local consortia to decide on the level of involvement.

“What we are very clear about is that the centre is not the place to decide how things happen locally. It’s extremely different delivering care in a rural area to an inner city. We need local decision making,” she said.

During her speech, she reiterated the government’s commitment to recruiting more health visitors to tackle health inequalities.

She said:  “We see health visitors as key to improving the health of not only babies but whole families.

“This is particularly true in areas where families are hard to reach. It will build community capacity to support and involve local people to improve their own health outcomes. The big society needs to be a healthy society.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is a very good news for nurses and nursing in the UK. It would have have been a tragedy for the profession in the UK, and patients in general if the role of CNO had been scrapped. And I reiterate my opinion on this issue that, the role of the CNO provides the face and presence of nursing in decision making circles where the RCN and NMC may be absent. That is in the political arena.

    In the face of the all the down-sizing and downgrading, who other than the CNO will be at the table to highlight the pivotal role of nurses in UK healthcare? And by so doing, will directly and indirectly facilitate the developement of the nursing role .

    We can debate on the direction of this developement of the role of nursing, but develop we will.

    Once again, thanks to Ms Milton for making this point. Ms Milton, a former nurse, may have had some say in this. Would anyone still doubt the relevance of a nursing voice in high places?

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