Chief nurse Jane Cummings to step down

England’s chief nurse Jane Cummings resigns but is expected to remain in post for at least six months

Jane Cummings wants a single chief nurse to lead both NHS Improvement
and NHS England. Picture: Grant Humphreys

England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings is to step down after six years.

In a statement, Professor Cummings, whose chief nursing officer (CNO) role sits in NHS England, called for a single chief nurse to lead both NHS Improvement and her organisation as the two bodies face proposed merger.

The chief nurse said in her resignation statement: ‘I believe nursing and midwifery and the NHS benefit if we speak with one voice. In the south and London regions I have backed a single chief nurse leading for both NHS Improvement and NHS England.

‘For some months I have argued there should be one nursing voice nationally, and I hope the boards accept my recommendation that there be a single chief nurse for both.'

She said that to lead this change would require several years' commitment. ‘Following more than six years as CNO and nearly 40 in the NHS, I feel it is appropriate that someone else take on this challenge.'

During her tenure, Professor Cummings introduced programmes including the 6Cs, Compassion in Practice and Leading Change, Adding Value, the national framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff. Earlier this year she announced a major national nursing recruitment campaign.

But it has been a difficult time too for the workforce as it faces multiple pressures to do with staffing, resources and morale. 

Her resignation comes five months after a committee of MPs told Professor Cummings to check with every trust in England that their nurses do not routinely stay late and have time to take proper breaks. The Commons health and social care committee made the call in its Nursing Workforce report on how to alleviate pressures on nurses and halt the exodus from the register.

‘She ensured the voice of nurses is heard’

Health leaders were today paying tribute to England's CNO.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘Jane is a passionate advocate for nursing and midwifery who has done so much to ensure the voice of nurses is heard loud and clear across the health service.’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'Jane has worked tirelessly to represent and promote nursing as an attractive, dynamic and modern career. At a time when the profession faces significant challenges she has provided leadership and passion.'

NHS England chair Malcolm Grant said: ‘She brought to the role her own extensive experience as a nurse, then built on it with energy and emotional intelligence to provide real leadership to the nursing and midwifery professions across the NHS in England, while also making major contributions to the business of NHS England. Her achievements will long outlast her six-year tenure.'

Call for single chief nurse

Professor Cummings is expected to remain in post for at least six months. In her statement, she reflected on her time as chief nurse.

‘It has been an honour and privilege to be the professional lead for over 500,000 nurses and midwives who make an incredible difference to people when they need it most.

‘I am very proud to be a nurse and keen to encourage as many people as possible to join what are challenging but ultimately incredibly fulfilling and rewarding professions.

‘With the proposed merger of NHS England and NHS Improvement, now more than ever we must have a senior nursing post in the Department for Health and Social Care to continue to guide and shape the future of patient care.

‘Over the next six months, my focus will be to support the alignment of the two nursing teams across NHS England and NHS Improvement and lead the celebrations for the NHS in its 70th year.'

In addition to her CNO role, she is also NHS England’s lead executive director for learning disabilities, maternity, equality and diversity, and patient participation and experience. Since September 2017, she has also been NHS England’s regional director in London.


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