Letter: Women lead nursing

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I read the letters from Jennifer Worth and Jennifer Darnley (11, 20 March) with dismay. Their perception of the male dominance of nursing leadership is so at odds with the reality that I must put the record straight.

Modern nurse leadership is a success story for women. Of nearly 400 Nurse Executive Directors who fill board-level posts in NHS trusts, between 70 per cent and 80 per cent are women.

We have a female general secretary of the country's largest trade union, the Royal College of Nursing. Many nurses are at the vanguard of leadership in higher education, amongst whom are the largest group of female professors.

As Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health and Director of Nursing for the NHS Executive, I serve as one of the most senior female civil servants in government.

And thousands of women operate as ward sisters, nurse specialists and community team leaders.

This has not happened accidentally. When appointed Chief Nurse in 1992, my impression was that a disproportionate number of nurse leaders were men. But women, with the Department of Health's support through the Opportunity 2000 campaign, were encouraged to take on increasing responsibility, develop management skills and become more confident through sponsored leadership programmes, MBA courses, and secondments.


Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Nursing

Department of Health,

London SW1