Ensuring nurses feel ‘supported to thrive’ and are working within ‘inclusive environments’ have been signalled among the key priorities for England’s chief nursing officer (CNO), in an exclusive commentary for Nursing in Practice.
Dame Ruth May has issued an exclusive response to a collection of ‘birthday wishes’ from the nursing profession, collated by Nursing in Practice to mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS, and sent to the UK’s CNOs.
Last week, Nursing in Practice received responses from the CNOs in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who set out their commitments to improving and supporting the wellbeing of the workforce and working conditions, among other priorities.
As part of our ‘birthday wishes’ campaign, nurses told us they wanted 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 wished 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.
Dame Ruth told Nursing in Practice she was ‘pleased that many of these align with our current priorities for the NHS and our professions’.
She stressed that ‘all colleagues’ must feel ‘valued and supported to thrive in their roles, are able to provide person-centred care and have opportunities to progress and reach their potential’.
As England’s CNO, she added that she was ‘committed to ensuring that all nursing and midwifery colleagues are well-supported both personally and professionally’.
She added that work must continue to help ‘create inclusive environments for all staff and patients’ and that focusing on equality, diversity and inclusion within the workforce was ‘critical to providing high quality patient care and addressing population health inequalities’.
Read here for Dame Ruth’s full response..
‘Thank you to Nursing in Practice for sharing some of its readers’ ‘birthday wishes’ for the NHS. I’m pleased that many of these align with our current priorities for the NHS and our professions.
‘As we reflect on the NHS over the past 75 years, we can see how it has evolved and adapted to meet the needs of those it cares for. I am so proud that nursing and midwifery colleagues have been a central part of this and remain at the forefront of advancements and innovations.
‘As we mark the NHS’s 75th anniversary, I want to recognise the enormous contribution of our nursing, midwifery and care colleagues and the difference you all make across health and social care every day.
‘The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, published last month, recognises the importance of our professions, and builds upon these essential roles. It commits to significantly growing our nursing and midwifery workforce and sets out changes to increase the number of people joining our professions and to make it easier for them to do so. Recognising that nursing and midwifery are graduate professions, educational reforms will focus on flexibility and widening access.
‘Looking after and retaining our current workforce is just as vital as the need to grow it. We must ensure that all colleagues feel valued and supported to thrive in their roles, are able to provide person-centred care and have opportunities to progress and reach their potential.
‘I am committed to ensuring that all nursing and midwifery colleagues are well-supported both personally and professionally and, after a challenging three years, I want to encourage you to look after yourselves and your colleagues.
‘The NHS offers a comprehensive package of wellbeing support for staff and there is also a range of national initiatives which support NHS organisations. One such programme is our Professional Nurse Advocate (PNA) programme which delivers training and restorative supervision for colleagues right across England. A version of this programme exists for maternity colleagues and outcomes point to improved staff wellbeing and retention, alongside improved patient outcomes. We now have more than 3,700 qualified PNAs across England.
‘Our internationally educated nurses and midwives have always been an integral part of our workforce. Today, our NHS is more diverse than at any other point in its history and represents more than 200 nationalities. As the largest collective workforce, we must continue to drive forward our commitment to improving equity of opportunity for all nurses and midwives, ensuring there are opportunities for development and promoting and embedding inclusive leadership.
‘Ensuring our internationally educated nurses and midwives receive the right pastoral and professional support is so important and we are continuing to work with international nursing and midwifery associations (INMAs).
‘Through our small grants programme we have made financial and professional support available to enable INMAs to enhance their offers to members and to help build diverse, thriving international communities across the NHS. We also introduced our NHS Pastoral Care Quality Award which supports trusts to provide high quality pastoral and professional support to international nurses.
‘Maintaining a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion within our workforce is critical to providing high quality patient care and addressing population health inequalities and last month, NHS England also published its first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Improvement Plan which will support the NHS and its leaders to create positive change to improve staff and patient experience.
‘We must also continue to create inclusive environments for all staff and patients. Last year, in partnership with the NMC and NHS Confederation, we published ‘Combatting racial discrimination against minority ethnic nurses, midwives and nursing associates – a resource to help colleagues combat racism and secure their own and their colleagues’ wellbeing.
‘We want this resource to further empower all nursing and midwifery professionals so they can care with confidence and so that together we can take action to identify and actively address racism.
‘As we look to the future, it’s important that, together, we define the future role of nursing and midwifery in leading and delivering high quality care across health and social care. My new professional strategy, developed with the professions and launching later this year, will do just that and will set out our vision for the professions over the next five years.
‘As we say happy 75th birthday to our NHS, I want to say thank you to all our nursing, midwifery and care colleagues across health and social care. The difference you make is immeasurable.’