The worst kept secret in nursing was finally made public last week - as Dame Christine Beasley formally announced her retirement as chief nursing officer for England. She will retire from the post she has held for six years next March.
More from: Future CNO role undecided
The announcement, made at the CNO’s conference last week, hasn’t done much to stem the tide of speculation about the future of the role, or who will take over.
The decision to keep the chief nursing officer post in any capacity in the current financial situation is a testament to Dame Christine’s achievements and influence
Also speaking at the conference, health minister Anne Milton declared there would definitely be a CNO role in public health after Dame Christine retires. But that just served to fuel the rumour mill more as to whether that meant there could be a senior nursing role in public health, and another on the national commissioning board.
The answer, according to Dame Christine, hasn’t been decided yet. But having two senior nurses who champion the profession and advise government would be a coup. (Although we’d still like the government to make it mandatory to have at least one nurse on every GP commissioning consortium board as well). It’s not just nursing that would benefit from two roles like this - patient care would be the biggest beneficiary of increased authority for clinicians.
The decision to keep the post in any capacity in the current financial situation is a testament to Dame Christine’s achievements and influence. Had another, less impressive, person filled this position we may have seen it phased out. But her proud defence of nursing principles and integrity, unshakeable belief in promoting best practice and delivering on the public’s expectations of patient care have ensured that nursing is taken seriously.
Dame Christine took over her role at a difficult time for nursing, when MRSA had become a media obsession - with the finger of blame often pointed at nurses. She has managed to embed infection control standards into the culture of healthcare to the extent that infection reduction targets, which were considered all but impossible to achieve, were comfortably exceeded.
Meanwhile, she has elevated the status of nursing as a profession as well as in Whitehall. More is to be done, but she’s given her successor - or successors - a headstart.
One role or two – Dame Christine’s shoes are hard to fill