Chief Nursing Officer to retire

Alex McMahon’s decision brings to an end a ‘distinguished career’.

Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Professor Alex McMahon is to retire later this month, marking the conclusion of a career dedicated to advancing healthcare and nursing practice across the country.

Professor McMahon was officially appointed to the CNO position in December 2021, having carried out the role on an interim basis since the October of that year.

During his tenure, Professor McMahon oversaw the implementation of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act 2019, which came into effect on April 1 this year to ensure there are sufficient staffing levels to meet patients’ needs. He also played a key role in the Nursing and Midwifery taskforce which is at the final stages of recommendations, with a focus on recruitment and retention in both professions.

Deputy CNO, Anne Armstrong, will act as the interim CNO from Friday 26 April, until the recruitment process to fulfil the CNO post has concluded.

Professor McMahon said:

“Being the CNO in Scotland has been a great privilege. It really has been the ‘icing on the cake’ of my career. Throughout my time in the role, it has been particularly gratifying to be associated with the implementation of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act 2019 and the Nursing and Midwifery taskforce. I am also proud to have been involved with work on a range of issues from hospital acquired infection and antimicrobial resistance to regulation and the development of advanced practice roles. In addition, our ‘Once for Scotland Retire to Return’ policy has been a highlight, benefitting a huge number of staff and patients across NHS Scotland.

“None of the work I’ve been involved with would have been possible without the support of a strong team and I’d like to thank them for helping me drive forward these changes that I hope have made a difference.”

Health Secretary Neil Gray said:

“Throughout his tenure as Chief Nursing Officer, Professor McMahon has demonstrated a profound commitment to the nursing profession, championing the interests of healthcare workers and advocating for the highest standards of patient care. His leadership has been characterised by compassion, integrity and a relentless pursuit of excellence during some of the most challenging times for our health service.

“On behalf of the Scottish Government, I’d like to congratulate Professor McMahon on his distinguished career and extend our sincerest gratitude for his service. I wish him a long and fulfilling retirement.”


Prior to his role as CNO, Professor McMahon was the Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and AHPs at NHS Lothian and was Chair of the Scottish Executive Nurse Directors group for four years, working closely with the previous Chief Nursing Officer to shape policy and professional practice. He qualified as a registered mental health nurse in 1986, and as a registered general nurse in 1989, and has worked in the private sector, NHS and Scottish Government. He holds honorary professorships with the University of Stirling and Queen Margaret University.

The CNO role will be advertised as part of a fair and open external recruitment process and will be chaired by a Civil Service Commissioner, in accordance with the Civil Service Recruitment Principles.

The CNO has professional responsibility for the nursing, midwifery, allied health professions (NMAHP) and Health Care Science (HSC) workforce. This is in addition to responsibility for professional leadership and advice in relation to healthcare associated infection and providing policy advice to ministers on a wide range of health-related areas.


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