NHS 75 - Chief Nursing Officer blog

Date published: 07 June 2023

The thoughts and reflections of Maria McIlgorm, Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland, as we celebrate 75 years of the NHS.

Maria McIlgorm, Chief Nursing Officer blog

By Maria McIlgorm
Chief Nursing Officer

This is a hugely momentous year for our health service.

On July 5th, we will celebrate 75 years of the NHS - the very first universal healthcare system available and free to all at the point of delivery.

And I want to say to staff across Health and Social Care, you should all be rightly proud of its achievements and enduring success.

Our nurses and midwives in particular are the backbone of the health service, providing dedicated round-the-clock care to the public, while demonstrating remarkable compassion and empathy, often in very stressful conditions.

Your adaptability and resilience were visible for all to see in your response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and over this past winter, which was one of the most difficult we have ever experienced.

Every day there are families right across Northern Ireland who are very appreciative of the expert care they receive from you and your teams.

There will be many events taking place in the coming months celebrating this 75th anniversary, including special UK-wide Parkruns on 8th and 9th July.

I encourage you all to take part – walk, run, jog or volunteer. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate this achievement, while also staying fit and active.

Birthdays, though, especially as one gets older, are as much about reflection as celebration.

A time to reflect not only on our achievements and successes, but also the challenges and hardships we may currently be facing.

This birthday is no different.

This is an extremely difficult time for our health service. We are facing very serious financial and budgetary pressures, and the significant challenges and constraints posed on us by those pressures have been well documented.

Over the last year, I have met many of you and have heard at first hand your thoughts on the future of nursing and midwifery.

I have been struck over and over again by your passion and commitment for the job, in spite of all the pressures being faced.

And I recognise that those pressures are severe and relentless.

But, in spite of the challenges that we face, I am confident in the ability of the nursing and midwifery leadership to lead the reform and transformation of our health and social care system, to ensure we can continue to meet the health and care needs of the people of Northern Ireland.

Work is already underway and we have launched a number of key initiatives over the last month, including our five-year vision for Nursing and Midwifery in Northern Ireland. (doh-nm-vision-leaflet.pdf (health-ni.gov.uk)

Our vision is to maximise the potential of the nursing and midwifery workforce, including our healthcare support workers, in a safe, inclusive, and healthful culture while recognising the value of equality and diversity within the workforce.

It is important that we will continue to work together to provide the resources and conditions to ensure that everyone involved in providing nursing and midwifery care can confidently and safely provide high quality evidence-based care.

The vision strategy, drawn from and guided by the Nursing and Midwifery Task Group (NMTG) report, which was launched in 2020, identifies four key priorities:

  • Workforce and Workload planning;
  • Pre & Post Registration Education & Training;
  • Further development of career pathways beyond clinical pathways;
  • The development of a Quality Assurance Framework for Nursing & Midwifery.

Investing in our workforce, and their continued personal and professional development, supporting nurses and midwives to achieve their career goals on clearly defined pathways, is imperative to build and retain a sustainable workforce.

We also officially launched the Continuity of Midwifery Carer programme (CoMC), which provides a woman with care from the same midwife or team of midwives during pregnancy, birth and the early parenting period, as well as obstetric and other specialist care as needed.

CoMC is being rolled out across Northern Ireland’s five Health and Social Care Trusts, and it is anticipated that over the next few months all HSC Trusts will have at least one team established.

These two examples demonstrate that even with the severe pressures we are facing, we are committed to improving working conditions and population health outcomes. 

I am very proud to have spent my career working as a nurse and a midwife and feel incredibly honoured to be the Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland.

As we mark 75 years of the NHS, we not only look back on our great achievements and how much we have learnt and grown, but we look to the future and how we can all play our part in transforming our healthcare system to improve health outcomes now and for future generations.

Thank you all for your tireless dedication and devotion to the people for whom you care.

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