My job

‘Remember why you came into nursing and what difference you make’

Chief nurse and director of quality Allison Cannon explains what inspires her

Chief nurse and director of quality Allison Cannon explains what inspires her


What is your job?

I am the chief nurse and director of quality for eight clinical commissioning groups in east Surrey and Sussex, responsible for ensuring the quality of services being commissioned.

I work with many stakeholders and partners across the system to ensure patients receive high-quality services and outcomes.

My role also covers safeguarding children, adults and looked-after children.

What are your main responsibilities?

My role is to offer strategic nurse leadership across the system. I work with multiple providers, ensuring that we always keep what matters to our patients at the forefront of the decisions we make.

I am responsible for ensuring that there are clear programmes in place that improve the services for our patients and local populations. 

Why did you become a nurse?

I grew up in a family that is passionate about the NHS. My father started working in the NHS when he was 17 a junior accountant, and went on to become an NHS tust chief executive.

I always enjoyed working with people and knew I wanted to do something that made a difference to them.

When it came to leaving school I knew being a nurse was what I really wanted to do.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy working with my team and seeing all the work they do that has had a positive effect on people’s lives, such as reducing the number of falls, introducing new services, and supporting care homes with training and development.

I also enjoy learning and there is always something new to learn.

How and where have you developed leadership skills?

I have been fortunate over my career to work with some fantastic nurse leaders.

I learnt from them how to value the people you work with and always keep the patients at the heart of what you say and do.

I recently had the opportunity of becoming a Florence Nightingale leadership scholar, and my time on this programme enabled me to reflect and challenge myself as a leader.

How does your job make use of your skills?

I work across a large complex system so I have to use my leadership skills to build relationships, develop networks and motivate people.

I need clear and effective communication skills so that all the teams understand what we are trying to achieve and why.

What inspires you?

My team inspires me. They are always striving for improvements, and seeing them develop is rewarding.

Listening to what our patients have to tell us also inspires me. I hear fantastic stories about the care and treatment they receive, but I also hear when the care hasn’t been right for them. This inspires me to want to do better and learn and improve services for people.

What do you do in your free time?

I have four children and I spend a lot of my free time with them. They are all competitive swimmers so a lot of my time is spent at swimming pools.

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, particularly when I get to eat cake.

What achievement makes you most proud?

Choosing to be a nurse is the achievement I am most proud of.

I am also proud, as the chief nurse, of being able to bring together nurses from a variety of healthcare settings to celebrate the value of nursing.

What makes a good nurse leader?

A good nurse leader is visible, available and able to listen and respond to what people say.

Being open, consistent and transparent also creates confidence in teams. Acknowledging when you may not have got things right is also important; no one is perfect all the time. 

What advice would you like to pass onto students and junior staff?

Nursing as a career offers many opportunities and career avenues. It is a rewarding profession and a privileged position to have.

There are times when it can feel pressurised, but I would advise a student or junior staff member to be kind to yourself, seek support from your networks and colleagues, and share your experiences.

Above all, remember why you came into nursing and what difference you make to the lives of the people you care for.


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