This site is intended for health professionals only


England’s outgoing CNO champions ‘informal leaders’

England’s outgoing CNO champions ‘informal leaders’
Dame Ruth May

The outgoing chief nursing officer (CNO) for England has spoken of the need to ‘look out for’ and listen to ‘informal leaders’ working across the NHS.

Dame Ruth May, who announced her upcoming retirement in April, warned against focusing on leaders in ‘powerful positions’ above those based in everyday working environments.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation Expo last week, Dame Ruth said: ‘Whenever I go on to something new, and go into a difficult issue or look at a project, I look for the people that not only are in those powerful positions, but actually the informal leaders – the people that convene, the people that are actually the decision makers or the influencers.

‘So, make sure you look out for those.’

Dame Ruth has not yet announced the exact date of her departure but confirmed that this would be her final NHS Confederation Expo as CNO.

As part of the conference Dame Ruth was thanked for her contributions to the NHS, including by a delegate who highlighted her ‘commitment to tackling racism in the NHS’, adding that she had ‘empowered the global majority to develop’.

Dame Ruth said international nurses working in England had been ‘a very welcome addition’ and urged delegates to ‘look after them’.

She highlighted that internationally educated nurses had been central to new nurse recruitment figures and in meeting the government’s target for 50,000 more nurses within a five-year period.

The outgoing CNO added that the ‘best advice’ she had been given in her 40-year career was to ‘invest in your relationships with colleagues,’ adding that ‘you are only ever as good as your team’.

She was joined on stage by Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, who thanked Dame Ruth for her contributions.

‘You should be incredibly proud of all the stuff that you have done, and some of that has been very visible,’ he told the CNO.

Sir Stephen told the audience of Dame Ruth’s record of supporting various communities in nursing, focusing on her pride in Windrush events and campaigning. 

‘I go to Windrush events with you every year, and I know how passionate you feel about international nurses, the programmes you run at NHS England, [and] children and young people [and] maternity,’ he said.

‘She speaks up for those groups, those populations, whenever she has the opportunity, and how hard he fights for all the resources and the attention that they quite rightly deserve.’

See how our symptom tool can help you make better sense of patient presentations
Click here to search a symptom