The current lack of a chief public health nursing officer in England has been raised as a cause for concern during the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) annual conference today.
A debate held this morning heard from former deputy chief nurse at Public Health England (PHE) Joanne Bosanquet who highlighted that the chief public health nurse role has remained unfilled for nine months.
Professor Viv Bennett had retired from the role at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) – the government body which replaced Public Health England – last year. Before her time at OHID, she had also held the position at PHE.
Both OHID and the UK Health Security Agency were launched in 2021 to replace PHE, but neither currently has a chief public health nurse.
During a debate at the RCN Congress – held in Brighton this week – Ms Bosanquet from the RCN’s Public Health Forum called on the RCN’s governing council to raise this matter with the government urgently.
‘We have got the UK Health Security Agency with no chief public health nurse on their board and we have got the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities with no chief nursing officer at all on their board,’ said Ms Bosanquet during the debate.
While highlighting the departure of Professor Bennett last year, Ms Bosanquet added: ‘The role was advertised last year, candidates were interviewed in August, and we don’t have an outcome nine months later.’
While there is a deputy chief public health nurse for England – Professor Jamie Waterall – Ms Bosanquet said it was a ‘shock’ that nine months down the line, those who have applied for the chief public health nursing officer role were still waiting for a decision.
Speaking to Nursing in Practice after the debate, Ms Bosanquet said: ‘We have got to focus on prevention and early prevention, early detection and management of a growing number of long-term conditions and an ageing population.
‘It has never been so important that we have a chief public health nursing officer in government.’
According to Ms Bosanquet, the chief public health nursing officer role at OHID was also when advertised last year.
The Department of Health and Social Care was contacted for comment but is yet to respond.