RCN to rejoin the International Council of Nurses

A total of 9,800 votes were cast, 7,613 of these were in favour of rejoining the ICN, 1,375 were against rejoining and 812 abstained. 

Matt Bodell
14 May 2021

Members voted on the landmark decision just minutes ago.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will rejoin the International Council of Nurses (ICN) following a landmark vote today at the College’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).


Previously a member of the ICN, the RCN left in 2013 amid concerns around spiraling costs and the organisation’s governance processes.

Members voted on the landmark decision just minutes ago and showed overwhelming support for a motion to rejoin. A total of 9,800 votes were cast, 7,613 of these were in favour of rejoining the ICN, 1,375 were against rejoining and 812 abstained.

The vote came after nearly an hour of intense debate over issues covering everything from the cost of rejoining the ICN to if the union supported conferences being held in counties with questionable human-rights practices.

It was revealed that membership to the ICN will cost the RCN around £400,000 per year – equating in real terms to around £1 per member per year. The College did confirm that there would not be an increase in membership fees to cover this additional cost.


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ICN CEO Howard Catton responded to the news; “We warmly welcome the news that the RCN’s membership has voted to re-join ICN and we are extremely grateful for the open and transparent conversation we have had with the RCN leadership and its members about the importance of  global nursing, in the lead up to the vote.

“The pandemic has shown that no nation can tackle global health issues alone, and that we must work together to create sustainable health systems for all, where no-one is left behind.

‘We wish to put on record our sincere and heartfelt thanks to those who have taken part in the discussions about the importance of RCN re-joining ICN.

“UK nurses and the RCN have played an integral role in the development and the history of ICN for more than a century, and I am absolutely certain that this news will be hugely well received by nurses and our associations around the world.  


‘We look forward to working with the RCN leadership on the next steps. We will continue to be transparent and member-led, aiming to ensure that nurses’ voices are heard and that they are at the centre of decision-making as we tackle the pandemic and its aftermath, and all the other burning international health issues that can only be solved through global solidarity in action.”


In a joint statement nurses and leaders of the We Are Global Nurses campaign Jeni Watts and Paul Jebb said they were “delighted” with the result.

They said; Alongside our campaign team and supporters, we have worked tirelessly to highlight the benefits of rejoining ICN and get nursing staff across the UK engaged in global issues.

“We are delighted that today RCN members have decisively voted in favour of rejoining.

“We believe this will strengthen UK Nursing’s power to impact world health, ability to advance our profession and influence over our pay, terms and conditions.


“We also believe that UK Nursing has much to offer the global community of nurses and much to learn from them.”

At the AGM members also voted to reinstate the cycle of half of RCN Council being elected every two years at the Council elections due to be held in 2023, and to make a minor change to terminology in the Standing Orders relating to unfitting conduct.

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