Chief nursing officer Jane Cummings urged nurses and midwives to engage in debates about the future of the workforce.
Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2016 she outlined the challenges and opportunities for nurses and midwives.
'The health and care system is going through a key period of change. Money is tight, so we need to find ways of being more efficient while improving services. This is tough, but as the largest group of healthcare professionals we should take the lead,' she said.
She highlighted that the current model of care is outdated and that most nurses would say that more care needs to take place outside of hospital.
Referencing the new model of revalidation, the new nursing support role and the removal of the bursary she said that there have been many changes to the way nurses work.
'There is so much happening it can be difficult for people to see how it all fits together and why, but we need to go beyond the immediate headlines and see the big picture,' she said.
She said that the 'number of nurses in the NHS has been steadily increasing' but that 'further work needs to be done, that demand continues to grow, there are challenges recruiting and retaining staff in some areas and there are no simple answers'.
'I am determined to ensure our professions have a seat at the table as we tackle the challenges ahead. The nursing and midwifery professions have a vital role to help shape an NHS and care system for the future and their voices must be heard,' she added.