UK Government

Department of Health (National): Chief Nursing Officer to retire from her role in the spring

Press Release   •   Nov 17, 2010 11:06 GMT

After over six years of service, England's Chief Nursing Officer, Dame Christine Beasley, has announced that she will retire in March 2011.

Dame Christine has made a lasting impression on both patients and staff through her engaging leadership and determination for better quality and care.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

"Underpinning all of Dame Christine's achievements is her style of leadership. She has maintained a high visibility across the NHS, undertaking hundreds of visits to frontline services and speaking engagements, meeting patients and staff and always promoting the importance of the patient experience.

"Dame Christine has continually championed better quality and care. Her ease of manner and depth of knowledge have given her an unrivalled reputation as an accessible and effective nursing leader."

Sir David Nicholson, NHS Chief Executive, congratulated Dame Christine on her achievements:

"Chris has been a great colleague and a highly regarded member of the senior team at the Department.

"She's made a major contribution as a leader, with her hands-on and personable approach. As a result of her hard work, she's successfully reduced hospital infections and made headway tackling mixed-sex accommodation, to name but a few achievements.

"I will miss her wisdom and sense of humour, and wish her all the best in her retirement."

Since Dame Christine took the helm, there has been a 78 per cent reduction in cases of MRSA and a 53 per cent reduction in C Difficile. Ward staff have taken responsibility for "orphan" items such as commodes and mattresses, introducing schemes to make it clear to patients when and by whom their equipment was cleaned.

With the other UK CNOs, Dame Christine brought together leaders from the NHS, education, regulatory and professional bodies and unions across the UK in the Modernising Nursing Careers programme. The programme defined the unique contribution of nursing, articulated the vision and set a direction of travel, enabling the profession to respond to changes across health and social care.

Dame Christine's further achievements include:

* Mixed sex accommodation - a mammoth task, but there has recently been a genuine increase in engagement and the biggest ever single year improvement in CQC inpatient survey results;
* Health visitors and community practitioners - her commitment to the public health agenda has driven the work on health visitors and school nurses;
* Clinical Academic Careers - the clinical academic programme will be instrumental in building research capacity within the professions; and
* Midwifery 20:20 - her visionary leadership for midwifery, particularly the contribution midwives make to public health led to the publication of 'Midwifery 20:20 - Delivering Expectations' which sets out the vision and sets the direction for the profession for now and the future.

Speaking at the CNO summit, Dame Christine said:

"I am honoured to have been Chief Nursing Officer for England for the last six years. During that time I have met thousands of nurses and midwives and seen at first hand their dedication, passion, and innovative approaches to improving the care of patients and support to communities. I know the positive impact they make on a daily basis to the people who use our services. Whilst I know the future will provide some tough challenges, I believe that nurses and midwives are well placed to seize the opportunities. Without their leadership it will not be possible to fulfil the expectations of patients and the public for the NHS, Public Health and Social Care Services."

The post of Chief Nursing Officer began during World War Two when Dame Katherine Watt, Principal for the Emergency Medical Service, was appointed.

Dame Katherine's work took her to far-flung parts of the globe, from The Lebanon and Syria to Australia and New Zealand. Dame Christine's work has been somewhat less cosmopolitan but by no means less significant, with regular visits to every English region to meet with NHS staff and patients. Although the geography of the post has very much changed, the ambassadorial nature remains.

Arrangements are being made for an interim CNO and will be announced in due course.

Notes to editors


Dame Christine Beasley was appointed Chief Nursing Officer in October 2004 and is the Director General within the Department of Health for Professional Leadership (including Allied Health Professions) and for Children, Families and Maternity. She is also the lead director for Reducing Health Associated Infections and the Cleaner Hospitals Programme.

She was awarded an Honorary Professorship in Nursing by Thames Valley University in 1997 and is the Pro Chancellor at the University. She has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Northumbria, Sheffield Hallam, Plymouth, and City University, London. She is also a Fellow of the Queen's Nursing Institute and a Trustee of Marie Curie Cancer Care. Christine was awarded a CBE in 2002 and a DBE in June 2008.


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