Jane Cummings, Chief Nurse: Health Chat

Professor Jane Cummings is the Chief Nursing Officer for England and Executive Director at NHS England.  OK – that’s the NHS England web site piece – but what did she say to Roy Lilley in the NHS Health Chat at The Kings Fund?  read on for my personal take…

Ready to roll!

It’s always interesting to attend one of these Roy Lilley Health Chats. You do meet a lot of interesting folk, chatting before and after. I honed in on one of the post chat questioners, who asked the final killer question “55% of nurses don’t work in the NHS even though nearly all were trained by the NHS. They feel disenfranchised and don’t know who their leader is, even though, in England, it is you.”  What are you going to do about that, was the gist of the rest of the question. So I asked the questioner more. Who are they?


I’d assumed private, nursing homes, social care, and fringe stuff like tattoo parlours, school nurses and sports and stuff. But it also includes nurses in General Practice – because they are private businesses  and are employed by the practice itself.

Can you already see how complex this is?  Would you have thought that?

Jane wanted to be a nurse early on, when practicing bandaging on her long suffering brother. Lost the urge, but then regained as a teenager seeing what happened in such a positive way when her mum was in and out of hospital when Jane was a teenager.  A&E Sister at 24. Clinical Nurse Specialist at 27. This is where she honed the Art and Science of nursing – and started to manage people and process. Roy was asking about why move from the vocation to being a manager. I think she had proved how that question was irrelevant. And she also still did, and does a shift on occasions. Management by Walking About? Or Motivating Others By Doing It? MOBDI – my new acronym!  Getting your hands dirty is always going to both play well, and give you so much useful pulse level information. I love that.

After transitioning into General Management Jane then moved into the Department of Health. After her own personal trauma of losing her husband to Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, whilst working on the 4 hour max wait target, she wanted to get back into NHS work proper. Chief Nursing Officer for the North of England. Then this current place. She did indeed seem destined for it!

Having worked on trying to hit a target (98% of patients will be seen within 4 hours of arriving at A&E) Jane agreed with Roy that sometimes, “you can hit the target but miss the point”.

And after that, we traded numbers!

More nurses and midwives, to make sure that more doctors could actually do what they were employed for. But, still a huge shortfall 36000 to 40000. That is offset by 31 to 32000 bank and agency staff – some of whom may be local staff supplementing their austerity capped wage?

Retention was a big problem and not just in older staff. This occurs just as much in first year post graduation. So there are schemes designed to help such as mentoring preceptorships and more. There are many beacons of excellence – Sheffield was mentioned. (And many others…)

Flexibility seemed to be the key here. Some nurses loved the 12 hour shifts. Some really didn’t want that. Sheffield seemed to accommodate so well they had a waiting list of applicants! I have always believed in stealing ideas with pride. Forget not invented here….just nick it and use it. That’s what the FabNHS website is for…as well as looking locally. (Click to visit)

Technology will help. Jane herself had Skype and data upload interactions with her own doctors and nurses (sorry…can you imagine the Chief Nursing Officer making an appointment to see you? Oh heck!). And there will and should be much more of that.

Our protagonists did agree the non-rocket science answers, based around Compassionate Caring, were indeed simple to state.

  • workforce planning, with flexibility built in tune with staff needs
  • Being a good employer
  • Have great ideas like Retire and Return schemes
  • As well as mentoring for newly qualified
  • As well as apprenticeships for those nurses who prefer practical to straight academic I assume? (Already being successful, I am informed)
  • Patients are not the most important thing here. Staff are. Get the staff right, feeling good, doing the right thing, and the patients are cared for stupendously.

If we get the duty of care right for our workforce, we will serve our patients best.

Amen to that – thanks Jane and Roy.

All we have to do now is just do it…