Nurse leaders across the UK have paid tribute to the ongoing commitment and dedication of those across the nursing workforce, as another challenging year for health and social care services draws to a close.
Ahead of the festive season and at a time of severe pressures and an ongoing dispute over pay, chief nurses have stressed staff must “prioritise” their own health and wellbeing and seek help if needed.
“Please do try to prioritise your own health and wellbeing and remember that support is available if you need it”
Thousands of nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been taking strike action this month over their pay and connected issues of staffing and patient safety concerns. Plans for strike action in Scotland are likely to press forward in the new year after nurse members of the Royal College of Nursing rejected a revised pay offer from the government there.
In a message to the profession for Nursing Times, Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer (CNO) for England, said: “It has been a really tough year for everyone in the NHS, as we knew it would be, and the recent industrial action has compounded that.
“I support and respect the rights of all nurses to make their voices heard – those who continue to work and those who make the difficult choice to take industrial action – and as a profession I know we all want a resolution to be found as soon as possible.”
As CNO she said she remained “so proud and inspired by our highly skilled and dedicated nursing and midwifery staff and I want to offer my personal thanks to each and every one of you”.
“I value the contribution that every nurse, midwife, nursing associate and support colleague makes and I’m immensely grateful for all you do for patients, families and each other,” added Dame Ruth.
And despite the “many challenges” of 2022, she highlighted the “real difference” nurses and NHS staff had made to patients.
She added: “It remains just as important for nursing and midwifery staff to also look after themselves.
“So, however and wherever you mark this festive period, please do try to prioritise your own health and wellbeing and remember that support is available if you need it.
“And as always, I give special thanks to those working over the festive period.”
“I will continue to work to ensure that the voices and needs of nurses and midwives are heard at government level”
Separately, CNO for Northern Ireland, Maria McIlgorm, vowed to ensure the “voices and needs” of nurses were heard at a government level and offered thanks to the profession for their valued efforts.
She told Nursing Times: “As 2022 draws to a close, I want to personally offer my sincere thanks to all of our nurses, midwives and health and social care staff working across Northern Ireland for the continued hard work, commitment, dedication and professionalism they have shown over the last year.”
Ms McIlgorm continued: “The end of every year is commonly a time for reflection. Looking back on 2022, I am so proud that our nurses and midwives have continued to demonstrate clearly that both professions remain crucially positioned at the heart of healthcare provision.”
She recognised the “unprecedented challenges” faced in recent years, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“You have pulled together in positive, professional, and creative ways to reduce the impact of this crisis on the lives of our fellow citizens,” she told Nursing Times.
She stressed the need for all nurses to “take care” of their own health and wellbeing, as well as each other and their patients, and highlighted there were “initiatives available” in Northern Ireland to support staff.
She added: “Thank you all again – each of you has been truly exemplary and inspiring, and I look forward to working with you to face the coming challenges together. I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.”
In a separate tribute to the profession, Scotland’s CNO Professor Alex McMahon stressed that nurse wellbeing was his “priority”.
“As we come out of the height of the pandemic, it could not be clearer how central nursing staff are to the recovery of our NHS,” he told Nursing Times.
“Having completed a year in post and having visited so many services over the course of the year and having spoken to so many of you, I know how dedicated our workforce is to delivering safe and effective care for the patients that you look after, so thank you.
“But I also want to stress that your wellbeing is also my priority.”
He acknowledged how the festive period “can bring its own unique challenges and demands”.
Though he added that “NHS staff meet those with the same enduring care, compassion, and professionalism”.
“At such a busy time, I hope everyone stays safe and healthy, and I want to give my thanks to all our dedicated and hardworking staff who are always there to look after us,” said Professor McMahon.
“The NHS is built on the commitment and dedication of its workforce, and I am proud to be a part of that. I hope all our staff know that they are valued and admired by us all.”
Meanwhile, CNO for Wales, Sue Tranka, wanted to “express a heartfelt thank you and a Nadolig llawen [Merry Christmas] to everyone working across our NHS and care sectors in Wales for all the work you continue to do to look after the people in our community who are most in need of support”.
“Nurses and midwives work hard day in day out to save lives, provide and coordinate care and treatment whilst respecting and valuing people’s individual needs,” Ms Tranka told Nursing Times.
“Many of you will be working over the Christmas period and I hope whatever you are doing you have time to recharge your batteries and spend some time with your loved ones over the holiday period.
“I wish all of you a very merry Christmas, cofion gorau, a blwyddyn newydd dda yn [best memories, and a happy new year] 2023.”
Chief nurse for adult social care in England, Professor Deborah Sturdy, also recognised the “challenging year” nurses had endured and expressed her “sincere thanks to every nurse and professional care worker in adult social care for all they have done to give the very best care to those who need it most”.
“Every positive interaction, no matter how big or small, makes an incredible difference to those we serve – and to the family, friends and loved ones around them,” she said.
In the incoming year, Professor Sturdy said she hoped to build on the “thoroughly deserved recognition” social care had seen this year, including at the annual Nursing Times Awards and through her gold and silver Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care Awards.
“The very best to you all,” she added.
In addition, Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive at the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), described 2022 as a year in which “a nursing workforce, exhausted by two years of a pandemic, continued to deliver the highest quality nursing care possible in the community”.
“I am deeply moved when I see the compassionate and highly skilled, complex nursing care of citizens in their homes and communities – from the delivery of care to the leadership of the services,” she told Nursing Times.
“In 2023, the QNI will be supporting nurses and raising the voice and value of the nurse and nurse-led services in remarkable new ways, and I very much look forward to leading this exciting change.”
Meanwhile, executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting, Alison Morton, said: “As we reflect on 2022, I hope that health visitors will take encouragement from knowing that their vital work has made such a difference to hundreds of thousands of families during this challenging year.
“With widening inequalities and more families struggling with a cost-of-living crisis, health visitors are needed more than ever to meet the scale of rising need.”
She added: “Let’s not deceive ourselves that even the most resilient of us has finite inner resources – please take special care to look after yourselves, and each other, and enjoy some well-deserved rest during the festive period. We look forward to working with you in the year ahead.”
In addition, Professor Greta Westwood, chief executive of the nursing charity Florence Nightingale Foundation, highlighted the work carried out by the organisation in the past year to support nurses and midwives to “influence, to connect and to lead to improve health and care outcomes”.
In 2023, the foundation will be “driving forward our ambitious new strategy”, she said, which aims to reach one million nurses and midwives globally by 2027.
“I would like to thank every nurse and midwife for the tremendous work you do every day to keep us safe,” she told Nursing Times.
“Some of you will be working over the festive period, so thank you.”