New national and regional nurse leaders announced by CNO

The new CNO, Dr Ruth May, announced the appointments today at her inaugural summit in Birmingham.

Hilary Garratt will continue in her role as deputy CNO, but with specific responsibility for system leadership, said Dr May.

The other two deputies are new appointments. They are Professor Mark Radford, formerly director of nursing (Improvement) for NHS Improvement, and Susan Aitkenhead, formerly director of nursing and professional development at NHS England.

Ms Aitkenhead will continue to lead on “professional development” under the new CNO.

Professor Radford, who has already been working for Dr May in her previous role at NHS Improvement, will have responsibility for “delivery”, she said.

In addition, she confirmed that Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent had been appointed as England’s first chief midwife, as announced earlier in the day by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.

Dr May said: “Nursing and midwifery are two of the most important roles in our NHS, at the heart of millions of people’s care.

“I’m proud of our new team; individually they each bring expertise, specialist knowledge and leadership, and together we have created a senior team with strength and diversity, and the capability to deliver on our commitments to our colleagues and our patients,” she added.

NHS Improvement

Professor Mark Radford

Mark Radford

Professor Dunkley-Bent will oversee delivery of a package of measures building on increased safety and support in maternity care, which were outlines in the new NHS Long Term Plan.

She has worked as a midwife, nurse and is currently head of maternity, children and young people for NHS England. Professor Dunkley-Bent will take up her new role from 1st April 2019.

As well as currently being the national maternity safety champion, she has advised on standards and practice in healthcare, alongside academic roles with two London universities.

The new role of chief midwifery officer will become the most senior midwife in England, providing professional, strategic and clinical leadership to colleagues working across the country.

Professor Dunkley-Bent will be responsible for measures that upgrade support for families, including greater digital access to “red book” medical records, better access to physiotherapy for mothers recovering after labour and improved care for critically ill new-borns.



Hilary Garrett

As set out in the long-term plan, Professor Dunkley-Bent will also help to develop a workforce implementation plan for the NHS, working with Dr May as well as representatives from unions and the royal colleges.

Announcing the move at the annual CNO Summit, Mr Stevens said: “Being there for families when a baby is born is amongst the most important roles the NHS plays.

“The measures set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, from digital ‘red books’ to upgraded specialist perinatal mental health care, will mean new parents in England are among the most well-supported anywhere in the world,” he said.

“Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent has the skill, experience and determination to deliver for new and expectant mums and their families,” he added.

jacqueline dunkley bent cropped

jacqueline dunkley bent cropped

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent

Commenting on her appointment, Professor Dunkley-Bent said: “I’m thrilled to be given the huge responsibility and privilege of serving families and my colleagues as England’s first chief midwifery officer.

“Throughout my time as a midwife and nurse in our NHS, I’ve seen first-hand the life-changing difference that the care of midwives can make to children and parents,” she said.

“And as the health service sets out to deliver an ambitious programme to improve care and safety for mums-to-be and their babies, I cannot think of a more vital, exciting and inspiring responsibility,” she added.

In response, Gill Walton, chief executive and general secretary at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a significant and vital step towards recognising and strengthening midwifery leadership at all levels in the NHS.

“The RCM has long championed the creation of such as role and particularly as maternity care was placed front and centre of the recently published NHS Long Term plan; we are delighted that there will now be a chief midwife in place to oversee and drive forward these ambitious proposals for maternity services,” she said.

“I cannot think of a better midwife than Jacque to take on this role and her varied career as not only a midwife, but also national leader and maternity safety champion at NHS England means that she will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the role,” added the RCM leader.

“The RCM remains focused on improving safety and care in our maternity services, but this cannot be done without quality leadership,” she said. “The new chief midwife is an excellent leader and advocate for midwifery and midwives and we look forward to working with her to improve England’s maternity services for women, their babies and families.”