Press release

1st Director of Nursing for public health announced

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Professor Viv Bennett appointed Director of Nursing in the Department of Health and the Government's Principal Advisor on Public Health Nursing

The top nursing post for public health, which will provide leadership to the workforce and help the public to live healthy lives was announced today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Professor Viv Bennett has been appointed as Director of Nursing in the Department of Health and the Government’s Principal Advisor on Public Health Nursing. Viv was previously the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer.

This new post will complement the role of Chief Nursing Officer in the NHS Commissioning Board, which will be recruited in the new year. Together these posts will enhance the role of nursing leadership and replace the current role of Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) in the Department of Health.

The Director of Nursing will be accountable to the Director-General of Public Health within the Department, and work closely with ministers and the Permanent Secretary, to ensure public health nursing is central to government policy.  Viv will work closely with a range of other national nursing leaders, in particular, the CNO on the NHS Commissioning Board, to ensure a strengthened nursing leadership framework.

Key responsibilities will include:

providing high quality and independent nursing advice to the Department and across government on policy issues and public health nursing;

  • leading and coordinating nursing policy development to maximise the contribution of nursing focusing on public health;
  • acting as champion for health improvement on a stage in the life course;
  • providing nursing advice to the development of social care; and
  • providing professional nurse leadership for public health nurses and  midwives and for health visitors and developing and extending the public health role of all nurses

Viv will take up her role in the new year.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

“Good nursing care is a central pillar of public health and strong nursing leadership must be at the heart of this.”

“I am extremely pleased that Viv has agreed to take up the post of Director of Nursing and the Government’s Principal Advisor for Public Health Nursing. As an experienced health visitor, Viv will bring her knowledge of public health nursing and her wider experience from the NHS, local and national government to the role. In her current role she has already demonstrated strong clinical leadership of the national health visiting and school nursing programmes.”

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Una O’Brien said:

“I am delighted that Viv is taking on this exciting and challenging role.
There is a great opportunity for Viv to establish and develop this role to strengthen the voice of nursing in public health and influence the future direction of public health in general.”

Viv Bennett said:

“I am honoured and excited to have been given this opportunity.  As a nurse and a health visitor, I am passionate about the application of nursing and midwifery skills and knowledge to improving and protecting the public’s health.”

“This role brings our contribution to the fore.  From the start of life giving our children the best start, throughout the life course and in supporting older people to have the best possible health and independence nurses can make really positive impacts on health outcomes. I look forward to working with the professions, our partners and the people we serve to maximise this contribution to improving health and wellbeing.”

Notes to editors

For further information contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221


Professor Viv Bennett BA MSc RGN HV

Viv trained as a nurse in Oxford in 1976 and worked in children’s nursing before training as a health visitor in Oxford in the early 1980s.  Viv worked as a health visitor and research health visitor in Oxford whilst studying for a BA and then Masters degree in health and social policy.

Viv has worked in a number of NHS operational management and commissioning roles and undertaken nurse executive roles in both provider and commissioning organisations.  She has also worked for SHA and local government on projects relating to nursing strategy and services for children and families.

Viv joined the DH as Deputy Chief Nursing Officer in November 07.  The role includes providing professional and clinical advice to Ministers and policy leads as well as leading on professional and policy development for a range of services and health issues.

Viv is the SRO and professional lead for the national Health Visiting Programme and School Nurse Development Programme, and leads the nursing contribution to public health and to commissioning.   Her portfolio also includes primary and community care and community nursing, mental health and learning disability and services for children and families.

She is a Fellow of the Queen’s Nursing Institute and Visiting Professor at King’s College London.