CNO reflection and thank you

22 July 2021

In part one of our series, the chief nursing officers (CNOs) for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales reflect and thank CPs for their efforts during the pandemic, and beyond.

Professor Charlotte McArdle, CNO for Northern Ireland

As I pause and reflect on the past 18 months, we could never have imagined the challenges we would face as individuals, professionals, countries – as humanity as a whole.

There is no doubt that this period has been one of the most challenging ever faced by the health and social care system. The evidence indicates the significant impact the pandemic has had on children, young people and their families in relation to social isolation, separation from family supports, school closures and limited access to services.

But I can say with certainty that, as a profession, health visitors, school nurses and support staff have courageously risen to the challenge in a positive, proactive and solution-focused way to ensure the delivery of safe, effective and compassionate care to children, families and communities.

Health Equity Report

The response has driven forward innovations across health visiting and school nursing in adapting to new ways of working and moving towards digital transformation to meet the needs of our children, young people and families. ChatHealth, virtual contacts and virtual group work have been introduced where face-to-face contacts have not been possible.

Community practitioners have been the true leaders in delivering the Covid-19 vaccination programme. As nurses, HVs and school nurses, we have a significant role in addressing the social determinants of health and building an equitable and sustainable society for our children, young people, families and communities.

It has been a great privilege that my team and I worked with the World Innovation Summit Health, Professor Sir Marmot,Dr Hannaway and Dr Rosa to publish the report – Nurses for health equity: guidelines for tackling the social determinants of health (bit.ly/WISH_report). It aims to raise awareness across health and social care systems worldwide, with guidelines and actions to support and enable nurses to create the conditions needed to better incorporate addressing the social determinants of health into their work.

As we start to rebuild our health and social care system from the pandemic, this resource will play an important role in supporting nurses, HVs and school nurses to enhance their focus on promoting wellbeing, preventing illness and protecting health.

As CNO, I am extremely proud and grateful to you all for your dedication, commitment and professionalism throughout this unprecedented time. Thank you for everything you do.

Amanda Croft, CNO for Scotland

Much focus during the pandemic has rightly been on our older adults, acute services and those in care homes. But it is important that we also acknowledge the responsive innovation of HVs, school nurses, community midwives and all our community health staff.

The commitment of our community practitioners has shone through – they transformed modes of service delivery almost overnight, swiftly incorporating IT solutions to engage to support families, ensuring continued support and advice was readily available and accessible. The uniqueness of the health visiting role, engaging with almost all babies through to pre-school children in Scotland, proved critical by enabling continuity of support from a health professional and the continuation of key child health promotion and developmental surveillance. School nurses moved into roles, in some areas, they were not familiar with and their concentration on supporting our most vulnerable children will have been vital for their development and protection.

Most children and young people may not have been directly impacted by COVID-19, but the indirect effects have been considerable. We have seen increases in child protection concerns, domestic abuse, and child and maternal mental health problems. The continued contribution of our community children’s health staff throughout the pandemic has been fundamental, in the provision of early support and wherever possible preventing escalating need, mitigation of trauma and risk from adversity.

The contribution of HVs, school nurses, midwives and community health staff has been invaluable as part of the whole NHS response. I know the pandemic has impacted all of us in some way, which is why I want to wholeheartedly thank this workforce for their continued efforts, leadership, resilience and professionalism throughout. I applaud each and every one of you.

Sue Tranka, incoming CNO for Wales

I have been very impressed with what I have heard and seen of the dedicated hard work of HVs, school nurses and other community nursing practitioners during the pandemic. They have shown flexibility, willingness and professional acceptance of the need for rapid and significant change in the emerging health crisis, and they are now vigorously addressing the longer-term impacts of the pandemic resolving the build-up of health need in our communities.

Their expert knowledge, skill and experience in population-based public health has been drawn on to support a practical on-the-ground response, delivering –among other things – the first-class response to mass vaccination that has seen Wales lead among the UK nations.

CPs have shown flexibility, willingness and acceptance of the need for rapid and significant change in the emerging health crisis

Innovative change has transformed health provision within the community, including utilisation of virtual technology, working together across professional boundaries, supporting children and families who were shielding and ensuring every child remained seen, heard and supported. This dedication, when some staff were redeployed to areas where their extensive expertise was required to support other clinical areas, has been inspiring.

I will be joining the team in September, helping to take forward the challenges of recovery and support the dedicated staff in meeting the needs of the people of Wales. I would like to thank the contribution HVs, school nurses and other community nursing practitioners have made not only in the response to the pandemic but on the foundations they are laying to make Wales a healthier, happier and more equitable place to live.


Image Credit | Shutterstock

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