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.”