'Preventing ill health is everyone's role,' nurse leader tells CNO summit

Nursing needs to get serious about prevention so the public regards it as the profession which will stop them getting ill in the first place, says England’s top public health nurse.

Viv Bennett.  Picture credit: John Houlihan

Public Health England's (PHE) chief nurse Viv Bennett told senior nurses at the chief nursing officer (CNO) for England's summit in Birmingham yesterday (December 1) that promoting wellbeing and good health is everyone’s job.

Her comments came as she presented proposals on how the new nursing strategy, which is being developed by CNO Jane Cummings, could contribute to population health and support nurses to prevent, promote and protect health.

Professor Bennett said: ‘We need an army of health prevention practitioners and the nursing workforce as a whole needs to rise to that. The public does not differentiate between what kind of nurse we are, people trust us for just being nurses and we need to build on that.

‘We have to strengthen the dialogue around nurses so we become professionals who stop people getting ill and who work to promote health prevention, rather than who just make you better when you are ill.’

Professor Bennett said the new nursing strategy needed to help nurses understand how they contribute to population health as well as individual health.

She added: 'We are obstructing some advances by not providing the right support; we need more direction, toolkits and resources to help nurses carry out prevention work.’

The conference also heard that nurses need to become braver at broaching difficult and sensitive subjects with patients, such as obesity.

Today (December 2) delegates are due to have a debate on how the new nursing strategy could inform and assist nurses to improve population health. This would include whether they should focus on nationally agreed topics, such as obesity, antimicrobial resistance and keeping well in the winter.