• New chief nurse indicates nursing will have voice in decisions about implementing the NHS long-term plan
  • Ruth May says nursing must be “valued” rather than only “trusted”

Nursing is going to “take [its] rightful place at the decision-making table” to ensure “nursing is built into all plans in the future”, the new chief nursing officer for England has said. 

In her first keynote speech in the post, Ruth May also said nurses should be more “valued” by the NHS leadership and the public, including for their clinical skills.

She told the national chief nursing officer’s summit yesterday that she had the “full and personal support” of Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, for nursing to “take [its] rightful place at the decision-making table, better able to shape how nursing is built into all plans in the future”.

This appeared to be a reference in particular to develop proposals to implement the NHS long-term plan. Ms May said nursing would be essential to delivering the plan, published by NHSE in January.

Ms May also told the event in Birmingham: “To be trusted is to be relied on – a one-way transactional relationship. To be valued is to be supported, to be engaged with, to be invested in.

“I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that nurses, for a variety of reasons – from outdated stereotypes to a lack of a voice at the top table – are trusted but too often undervalued.”

She pledged to work “day by day, yard by yard, to build a new reality for nurses and midwives that creates the space for you to do what you are best at – giving people expert, skilled and compassionate care”.

Ms May became CNO in January, having previously worked as the NHS Improvement nursing director. She said nurses needed to tackle deep stereotypes and poor public awareness of their role.

“In the popular imagination, doctors provide the expertise and nurses the comfort. That nursing is about mopping the brow and the floor. The role of nurses in prescription, medicine management, research and technical and clinical care is not spoken about enough,” she said.

“Historically, our messaging has sometimes unintentionally played into these views.

“It’s time we take control of our own reputation and our own sense of self.”

She announced a new national nursing recruitment campaign, and that Health Education England would spend £42m this year on expanding the number of nursing associates. 

Ms May said she aimed to develop new talent management programmes both for frontline and senior nurses, to do more to tackle discrimination against black and minority ethnic staff, and to encourage more men into nursing.