RCN announces temporary General Secretary amid Dame’s sickness

Ms Cullen will step into the role after Dame Donna Kinnair was placed on leave following a cycling incident.

Ian Snug
21 April 2021

Pat Cullen recently spearheaded successful industrial action in Northern Ireland.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has today announced a new temporary General Secretary and Chief Executive.


Pat Cullen, who works for the union as Director for Northern Ireland, will step into the role after Dame Donna Kinnair was placed on leave following a cycling incident.

The RCN’s ruling Council asked Ms Cullen to step into the role following her success with industrial action in Northern Ireland.

In a statement, Ms Cullen said; “I wanted to share news with members that our Chief Executive and General Secretary, Dame Donna Kinnair, will be on extended sickness leave for the coming weeks as she is recovering from a cycling accident. Your elected Council has asked me to serve as Acting General Secretary and Chief Executive during this time.

“No one will be surprised to hear that Donna’s first response was to praise the nursing staff who looked after her in hospital. I know I speak for all our members when I wish Donna a full and speedy recovery.


“In my acting role, I will lead the staff, working with Council, to ensure we continue to support members and raise the issues that matter most to you.

Ms Cullen clarified the RCN’s immediate prioritises including focusing on the Fair Pay for Nursing campaign.

“Yesterday, the Chair of Trade Union Committee, Graham Revie, Chair of the Professional Nursing Committee, Rachel Hollis and Susan Aitkenhead, RCN Scotland Director, hosted a roundtable with Conservative MPs to discuss key issues facing nursing and our key priorities for Westminster MPs in the coming year. Sir Bernard Jenkin chaired the event and MPs attending included Jeremy Hunt, Sir Graham Brady, Maria Caulfield and Paul Bristow.”

“We shared our priorities on Fair Pay for Nursing – and our continued call for a significant pay rise for nursing staff this year. We raised that you continue to work under significant pressure in all settings and that long-term workforce planning and investment in staffing levels must be a priority for the UK Government when planning for return to normal services after the pandemic.”


The RCN will hold a “virual” march on Downing Street later this week.

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