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Waking the “sleeping giant”

The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has clearly outlined her ambitions - prosperity, fairness and participation. These ambitions resonate with the profession in a way that gives us an opportunity to make a real difference to people's lives.

For too long nurses have argued that not enough action has been taken on the things that really matter to them - quality of care, time to be with people, and education and development. 

I believe the policy context in Scotland has never been as ambitious or transparent as it is now. We want people to live a longer, healthier life, at home or in a homely setting, and when they do access healthcare, it is to be world class.

We now have the opportunity to achieve this with the integration of health and social care. Nearly all parts of Scotland are in the process of setting up Integrated Joint Boards, where both health and local government are represented to make decisions about, and control the budget for, the delivery of integrated services.

The new partnerships will manage almost £8 billion of health and social care resources and will plan and fund services across the whole patient pathway, putting the patient at the centre of the future delivery of care.

However, to fully achieve the benefits this new way of working could bring we need to unlock the hidden talent we have within the NHS.

In its recent paper, the International Council of Nurses referred to the nursing workforce as a 'sleeping giant' - both in terms of improving population health and also improving delivery of healthcare.

I see my job as providing the leadership to harness the energy and passion within the nursing workforce, setting the direction that will unlock the talent within our profession.

So what would I like to achieve in the post of chief nursing officer? In reality, and particularly in the health service, success is a team effort. Excellence in care, reducing inequalities and improving population health can only happen reliably and consistently if we all play our part. 

Leadership of the profession at all levels is the key to delivering successful outcomes for the people we serve. In my role I hope to influence policy to ensure the conditions are created for excellent care to be delivered and drive a focus on improving the population's health. It is also important we work with the profession to determine how the government can support improvements and the transformational change needed to build sustainable services for the future.

I believe the most challenging aspect of this is how we grow and develop the nursing workforce to be able to respond to the changing needs of our communities. However, we can only do that if the conditions are right but creating the right conditions can be challenging. With an ageing population and technology that changes almost in an instant, there are increasing demands on resources and services - set in the context of challenging financial times.

However, there are real opportunities for us to embrace change and support the creation of new services to be developed within the community to improve health and support people to stay in their own homes.

Embedding services, while creating the conditions for future generations to whom we can hand over the reins, is what we need to do.

Building a, flexible nursing and midwifery workforce that has the skills for the future, is key. We also must make sure that research contributes to our evidence base so we have solid foundations to improve the quality of care. Delivering the highest quality care for every person, at every time, in every setting is a huge ask, but one I believe is within our grasp with the right professional leadership.

In Scotland there is a real will within the profession to make a step change in reducing inequalities, improving the population's health and to deliver outstanding care. It will be my privilege to lead the profession to do just that.