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One role or two – Dame Christine’s shoes are hard to fill


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.

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.

  • Jenni Middleton

    One role or two – Dame Christine’s shoes are hard to fill


Readers' comments (4)

  • No they aren't. That woman has done very little for this profession. We are still woefully underpaid, understaffed, undervalued and underestimated; and elevated the status of Nursing? Don't make me laugh!

    The first person to evenATTEMPT to rectify these things for our profession will not only fill her shoes, but her entire wardrobe!

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  • One or two, why not have ten or twenty or a CNO in each trust? What a load of rubbish!

    The author of this article has clearly never stepped into an NHS hospital, ward or department or spoken to a bog-standard band 5 nurse for if she had, she would certainly not be publishing junk like this.

    Most nurses will never have heard of Dame Christine. I know of no diktat of which Dame Christine has been the author. The post and the person: costly and irrelevant

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  • When I was training aseptic technique and hand hygiene were the bread and butter of any nursing procedure. The fact that these standards were allowed to drop dramatically is unacceptable and I ask who is to blame? The terrible media coverage that MRSA in hospitals got is probably more responsible for a return to basic hygiene and ANTT than Dame Christine should be taking credit for. By the way who is she?

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  • How rude you all sound!! You criticise someone who supported our profession without even knowing the contribution she made.

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