England CNO to take on public health nursing leadership

The chief nursing officer at NHS England has revealed that she is taking over professional leadership of public health nurses.

Dame Ruth May’s announcement today comes as the post of the national chief public health nurse has sat empty for more than a year.

The chief public health nurse role was last held by Professor Viv Bennett – first at Public Health England (PHE), and then at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) after PHE was dissolved.

Professor Bennett retired in August 2022 and she was never replaced, despite interviews for the post taking place.

The delay in filling the post was raised as a concern by nursing leaders earlier this year, as reported by Nursing Times.

Speaking at her CNO Summit today in London, Dame Ruth said: “You will have heard me say before that health visitors and school nurses sit outside my portfolio and how this has saddened me.

“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. It’s really exciting.”

The announcement appeared to be received positively by the delegates at the summit as it sparked some cheering and applause.

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Speaking to Nursing Times immediately after the announcement, Alison Morton, chief executive of the Institute of Health Visiting, she was “delighted to have a renewed focus on health visiting” and excited to work with Dame Ruth on nursing strategy going forward.

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