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Public health nursing to sit within England CNO’s portfolio

Public health nursing to sit within England CNO’s portfolio
England's CNO Dame Ruth May

The chief nursing officer (CNO) for England Dame Ruth May is set to take on ‘professional leadership’ for public health nursing, it has been announced.

The news follows more than a year since the country’s chief public health nurse role – which sat within a government body – became vacant.

Dame Ruth confirmed in a speech at her CNO Summit last week (16 November) that public health nursing, including health visiting and school nursing, was set to become within her portfolio.

‘You will have heard me say before that health visitors and school nurses sit outside my portfolio and how this has saddened me,’ she said, according to the Institute of Health Visiting who attended the conference.

‘So, today I’m extremely happy to share that this is changing.

‘I look forward to gaining professional leadership for the specialist public health nursing and midwifery workforce including health visiting, school nursing, occupational health and health promotion.’

Dame Ruth said the move was ‘really exciting’.

It has been more than a year since Professor Viv Bennet retired from the chief public health nurse role at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities – the government body which replaced Public Health England.

The delay had sparked several concerns among the profession, with nursing leaders warning the vacant post was leaving the profession feeling ‘insecure’.

An advert for the position had been posted on 22 July 2022 via the NHS Jobs website at a salary of £110,000 a year.

Also at the conference, Dame Ruth shared aspects of her new ‘vision’ for the nursing and midwifery professions – which is due to be published shortly.

According to the Institute for Health Visiting, it covers priorities for the nursing and midwifery professions, such as: Protecting our planet; Prevention, protection, promotion and reducing health inequalities; Person-centred care; Public and patient safety; Professional leadership and integration; Professional culture; and People and workforce development.

During her speech at the conference, Dame Ruth stressed it was ‘essential that we maximise the public health impact of our entire professions’ and that there was a need to ensure there was ‘the right capacity and capability’ within the specialist public health workforce, including health visiting.

Pointing to commitments made within the NHS Long Term Workforce plan to increase health visiting training places by more than 70% by April 2032, Dame Ruth said: ‘There is still fire in me to do more.’

Chief executive at the Institute of Health Visiting Alison Morton said she was ‘clearly delighted to see this renewed focus on health visiting and the importance of investing in our babies and young children’.

‘Having to watch our profession being stripped bare following years of cuts has been heart-breaking for me personally – and for all health visitors. This “change at the top” and Ruth’s “fire” to drive lasting change, is therefore very good news.’


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