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England’s Chief Nursing Officer to retire ‘later this year’

Health leaders across the country have responded to Dame Ruth May’s announcement, expressing gratitude for her work as a CNO
Dame Ruth enjoyed national appointments with NHS Improvement and Monitor, as well as regional and trust leadership roles, before becoming CNO for England in January 2019

Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer (CNO) for England has announced her decision to retire this year.

Writing on X, she said: ‘Today, after five years as CNO for England and a career in the NHS for almost 40 years, I have announced that I will be retiring later this year. My role as CNO has, undoubtedly, been the highlight of my career in the NHS and has been a privilege.’

Dame Ruth started as a nurse in training in 1985 and took up the post of England’s CNO in January 2019.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, she helped steer the response from the midwifery and care professions.

In June 2022, she was awarded a Damehood, as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honours, for her services to nursing, midwifery and the NHS.

In her social media post, Dame Ruth said that even though times have been challenging for the NHS, ‘nurses, midwives, nursing associates and health and care support staff have together achieved so much’.

‘I am and will always be proud to be a nurse,’ said Dame Ruth.

Health leaders across the country have responded to Dame Ruth’s announcement, expressing gratitude for her work as a CNO.

Professor Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive at the RCN, said: ‘Ruth has been the strongest ambassador for nursing over five very difficult years for our profession. We have worked extremely closely in recent years and her personal support and wise counsel has been invaluable.’

‘On behalf of hundreds of thousands of nursing staff working in England today, the RCN thanks Ruth for her service and her leadership,’ said Professor Cullen.

Responding to the retirement, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England thanked Dame Ruth for her commitment and dedication to ‘ensure real improvements for staff and patients.’

‘Ruth leaves big shoes to fill, but I am grateful that she will stay with us for a while yet as we start the search for our next CNO, giving us all plenty of time to say our personal thanks and goodbyes,’ added Ms Pritchard.