The UK’s chief nursing officers (CNOs) have responded to a series of ‘birthday wishes’ from the profession, collated by Nursing in Practice, to mark the 75th birthday of the NHS this month.
The CNOs across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have provided exclusive comments to Nursing in Practice setting out their commitments to improving and supporting the wellbeing of the workforce and working conditions, among other priorities. NHS England was also approached for comment.
They come in response to a selection of birthday wishes from nursing staff within the four nations and across various settings, as part of a Nursing in Practice campaign on the 75th anniversary of the health service last week.
Nurses told us they wished for those among the profession to ‘feel valued and supported and cared for, so they can have the energy and headspace to care for their patients’.
Others said they wish for racism to be a ‘thing of the past’, and for the NHS to fully deliver on ‘patient centred care’ and ensuring it is a health service that is ‘accessible to all’.
There were also calls for fair pay among all parts of the nursing workforce and for ‘safe and effective’ staffing levels across the health service.
Nursing in Practice sent the list of wishes to the CNOs for a response and this is what they said…
Wales’ chief nursing officer Sue Tranka:
‘Thank you to Nursing in Practice for sharing the ‘birthday wishes’.
‘As soon as I arrived in Wales to take up my role as CNO, I sensed a palpable and unique pride in the health service. There is a deep appreciation and respect for its aims and history, and even a feeling of ownership because of course it was the healthcare model here – in Tredegar – that inspired Aneurin Bevan’s vision.
‘If he were still with us today, I’m sure Mr Bevan would agree that our workforce is the lifeblood of the service he created. I would like to mark this anniversary by thanking our nurses and midwives working across settings and sectors for your valued contributions in maintaining the founding ideals of the NHS. What you do every day is exceptional and we cannot allow that to be taken for granted. Diolch yn fawr [Thank you very much].
‘The last few years have brought unprecedented challenges and pressures for the NHS. As the immediate threat of the Covid virus has receded somewhat, its impact on the system has not and we find ourselves at a critical moment in ensuring the future of this prized institution. We must secure a workforce to care for our future generations, and in order for that to happen, we as governments must care for the wellbeing of every member of our healthcare staff.
‘Nursing is the largest workforce in healthcare and plays a pivotal role in delivering services throughout Wales. Despite a growing number of nurses entering the profession, a gap remains between the supply and growing demand for our system.
‘Whilst organisations strive to increase the number of nurses through attraction and recruitment strategies, it is vital we focus on retaining our nurses – something I was very clear about when I published my CNO priorities in April 2022. A Welsh Nursing Retention Plan to be published soon by Health Education Improvement Wales will address the key themes that impact on retaining our nursing workforce in Wales.
‘Alongside bolstering our future workforce, we need to establish new expectations with the public about how they can also contribute to ensuring the NHS will meet their future healthcare needs, particularly when it comes to long-term conditions.
‘I have been privileged to work closely with the nursing workforce in Wales over the nearly two years I have been in post, and I look forward to continuing in this vein over the coming years as we look to address these issues together and secure a National Health Service into the future.’
Scotland’s chief nursing officer Professor Alex McMahon said:
‘As we celebrate the 75th birthday, it could not be clearer how central nursing staff are to the recovery of our NHS. Having visited so many services over the course of my time in the post and having spoken to so many of you I know how dedicated our workforce is to delivering safe and effective care for the patients that you look after, so thank you. But I also want to stress that your wellbeing is also my priority.
‘The safety of patients and wellbeing of our staff is of paramount importance, and we are doing everything possible to support them to feel valued and cared for, so they can have the energy and headspace to care for their patients.
‘We value our nurses and midwives’ professionalism, skill and dedication, particularly in recent difficult circumstances. The Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce will help create the best conditions and career opportunities for nurses and midwives to come and work by developing plans to bolster retention and recruitment.
‘The NHS is built on the commitment and dedication of its workforce and I am proud to be a part of that. I hope all our staff know that they are valued and admired by us all.’
Northern Ireland’s chief nursing officer Maria McIlgorm said:
‘This is a hugely momentous year for our health service, marking 75 years of a universal healthcare system that has provided, and continues to provide, the best possible care to some of the most vulnerable in our society.
‘My nursing and midwifery colleagues should be rightly proud of its achievements and enduring success, because day in and day out, they play a central and vital role in delivering that care.
‘And I want to sincerely thank them for that.
‘Nurses and midwives in particular are the backbone of the health service, providing dedicated round-the-clock care to the public, while demonstrating remarkable compassion and empathy, often in very stressful conditions. Their contribution is valued and deeply appreciated.
‘I have met many nurses and midwives over the last year, and I have witnessed first-hand their dedication and professionalism. I have also listened with interest to their views on the future of nursing and midwifery.
‘I have been struck by their passion and commitment for the job, despite the pressures the Health and Social Care system is currently facing.
‘This is an extremely difficult time for our health service. We are facing very serious financial and budgetary pressures, and the significant challenges and constraints posed on us by those pressures have been well documented. I recognise that for staff, those pressures feel severe and relentless.
‘To echo the comments made last week by the Department’s Permanent Secretary Peter May in his letter to HSC staff, the challenges facing the health service are considerable, but they are fixable.
‘I am confident in the ability of the nursing and midwifery leadership to lead the reform and transformation of our health and social care system, to ensure we can continue to meet the health and care needs of the people of Northern Ireland.
‘I am determined to improve working conditions and the health and wellbeing of the workforce.
‘Work is already underway and we have launched a number of key initiatives in recent weeks and months, including our five-year vision for Nursing and Midwifery in Northern Ireland.
‘We have also established a new framework for the supply of agency nurses, midwives and healthcare support staff, with the goal of eliminating the use of off-contract agency workers.
‘This will not only reduce agency spend, but will put the provision of agency workers on a firmer footing, and help support, develop, and retain a sustainable workforce to deliver safe and effective care.
‘As we mark 75 years of the NHS throughout this year, we not only look back on our great achievements and how much we have learnt and grown, but we look to the future and how we can all play our part in transforming and protecting our healthcare system to improve health outcomes now, and for future generations.’