I am standing for the Scottish seat on the Royal College of Nursing’s Council.
My reason for standing is that I believe the problems highlighted by the Electoral Reform Society review into the governance issues surrounding the English pay deal shows that the RCN, our great organisation, has lost its way.
As the report highlights the Council has failed to perform its governance role and in my opinion, it has become far too complacent. Papers have not always been read and their contents not always challenged enough. Weak leadership has allowed a small number to run roughshod over the membership.
Large sections of Council meetings are classed as confidential when they do not need to be; it seems to me that by confidential they mean ‘we don’t want members to know what we are doing’. Minutes of meetings have not been easily accessible and despite pressure from grassroots activists such as myself they can take months to appear, often not available at all.
As the ERS report highlighted communication with the membership can be poor and misleading. Too often the current role of communications is to convince the members that everything is hunky dory rather than provide them with the ‘full information’ to understand how or why decisions have been made and what other options there were.
The council should represent the members.
Power in the RCN is too concentrated in the hands of a few at the top and there is a growing disconnect between the RCN and the membership. The council allowed the former Chief Executive and General Secretary to run the organisation has their own private kingdom. There was a complete failure of Council to provide leadership and direction preferring instead to send out spurious and false claims against members as witnessed with the appalling and offensive ‘Scottish Letter’. The outgoing Council has not been prepared to fully admit that they have made mistakes and that it failed in its Governance role, preferring instead to create ‘folk devils’ and blame others. During the English pay fiasco, it appeared that they were more interested in discrediting sections of the membership than dealing with the issues and concerns being raised.
To understand how disconnected Council is from the nursing ‘coal face’ it is worth reminding ourselves of how Council sees itself by looking at how it is defined on the RCN Council page:
‘RCN Council provides leadership and direction for the organisation. It ensures that the RCN always has a clear vision and strategic plan, acts as a guardian of the RCN’s assets and holds management to account’.
Notice something missing? No mention of actually being there to represent the interests of the membership although the members do get a mention later on the page when responsibilities are listed. Out of the ten responsibilities of Council, listening to and engaging members comes in at a mighty seventh place!
We need a new type of council.
We will soon be electing a new Council but what we really need is a new type of Council. One that is prepared to make real changes to the way the RCN is led and staff managed. We need a new Council that will use the Governance structures to ‘enable’ members not to control them. We need a new Council prepared to re-engage with the membership, to address that disconnect which currently exists. We need a new Council that actively works to make the RCN membership centered and member-led. We do not need a Council which has become so ‘comfortable’ in its role that it forgets what it is actually there for.
I am however not just standing on these ‘buzz’ words during an election period as has happened so often at previous Council elections. Going back over past Council members’ election statements it is shocking how many claim they will do this and do that. But once in office, these promises are often dropped. That is until the next election when out comes the same old same old. Now is the time for this to change.
If elected I believe it will be my duty to those who vote for me to bring back the RCN to its members. If elected I will attend Council meeting with transparency, accountability and membership democracy as my drivers. Whatever decisions Council has to make they must always be in the interests of the wider membership. They must be driven by the principle of the RCN being a membership centered and member-led organisation.
I have a long-standing record of publicly standing up for the members of the RCN. I have campaigned tirelessly for the rights of us all no matter where we work or who we are. Whether a member works in the public, private or third sector; whether a home-trained or an overseas trained, whatever our sexuality, race or religion, whether a registered nurse or otherwise, we are all first and foremost part of the nursing body.
The RCN claims to be ‘the Voice of Nursing’, let’s make it truly that and elect those grass root activists who have been campaigning for a change in the culture of Council and the college.
It’s your vote, your voice; use it.
‘Student nurses graduate with £54k of debt, shouldn’t we pay them a wage instead?’
The Government claims students are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care”.
Student nurses are the unseen workforce and vital to patient care.
While I am pleased for the thousands of students who will soon be starting their journey to become a registered nurse, it comes with a stark reminder.
In November 2015, ministers announced the NHS Student Bursary and tuition fee payment would be cut in a plan to increase the number of available student places.
Suffice to say, this hasn’t worked.
Instead, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of student nurses qualifying. Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an overall decline in applications of 8% since 2015.
There is no debate that nurses need to be degree-level educated – but are student loans the best way to fill an ever-widing gap in our workforce?
The unseen workforce.
Student nurses are the unseen workforce and are sometimes vital to the delivery of safe, compassionate, person-centered care.
Completing over two-thousand hours of hand-on, direct clinical practice over three years – is it fair to ask them to accumulate up to £54,582 (plus 6.3% annual interest) of debt?
With a starting salary of £24,214, this is a debt the majority of nurses will never pay off.
The Government claims that because student nurses are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care” they need to be treated like all other higher education students.
While is it true that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mandates that student nurses are considered ‘supernumerary’ – how realistic is this expectation? We hear stories of student nurses, trainee nursing associates and healthcare support workers being used to fill nurse staffing gaps on an almost daily basis.
A self-perpetuating cycle.
With an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS alone, health and social care services in England are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.
Chronic under-investment in services has led to an increased demand on staff and subsequently affected recruitment and retention rates. Universities then fail to recruit enough nurses to meet the current demand and so the cycle continues.
The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education and come up with a long-term plan after its plan to increase numbers has failed to work.
Matching the proposed apprentice wage while student nurses are on placement would go some way towards alleviating the financial burden the government has placed on student nurses.
A fresh start?
I’m excited and I’m nervous. I qualified as a nurse just 15 months ago. I left a career in IT of “quite a few years” – I decided I needed a fresh start.
Now I’m sat on a train heading to my first ever RCN Congress. I’m a voting delegate and will be honoured to carry that responsibility for my branch.
I’m also excited to finally be meeting people that I’ve solely (or mostly) only ever connected with online.
Finally, I’m looking forward to the various debates and resolutions. Listening to the speakers will further inform my views and I might even share a thought or two myself – fortunately speaking in public does not generally worry me (I’ll be the one with the ukulele).
A brief glance back to this time last year when certain “irregularities” were noticed by some members around the pay deal and communications regarding it.
The train of events that followed uncovered a number of poor practices regarding transparency and accountability and our current council were elected to address these.
I also mentioned I am nervous.
Recently, it has become clear that further “irregularities” have occurred – and questions will be asked.
Tomorrow morning is the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual General Meeting – an opportunity for members to ask questions. An opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. An opportunity for a fresh start.
I genuinely hope the answers to the questions I raise are clear and dispel the concerns many of us have.
And if they don’t? Well, that’s why I’m nervous.
Mental health and learning disability services are deteriorating, says CQC
Growing pressure on services alongside chronic staffing issues risk creating a ‘perfect storm’ for patients.
Nursing vacancies hit record high leaving patient care at risk
It can be "dangerous" when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care.
Healthcare staff have a ‘professional responsibility’ to get the flu vaccine
This seasons flu vaccination target is set “above 90%”.
Second nurse in a week dies on their way home from work
She was on her way home after finishing her night shift when the accident occurred.
- Newsroom2 weeks ago
Second nurse in a week dies on their way home from work
- Clinical Updates2 weeks ago
Nurses’ ‘worry’ better than most early warning scores, finds study
- Features1 week ago
A lack of proper breaks is leaving tired nurses driving dangerously
- Clinical Care1 week ago
Hourly rounding ‘may not be the best way for nurses to deliver care’, finds study