RCN elects Dr Denise Chaffer as new its new President

A registered nurse and midwife, Dr Chaffer currently holds the post of Director of Safety and Learning at NHS Resolution.

Matt Bodell
15 June 2021
Dr Denise Chaffer

The result comes following a difficult year for the union.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has today elected Dr Denise Chaffer as its new President, it has been announced.


Former chair of RCN Council Maria Trewern and current RCN Council member Professor Rod Thomson both went unelected despite both having an extensive history and involvement with the union.

A registered nurse and midwife, Dr Chaffer is currently the Director of Safety and Learning at NHS Resolution – an arms-length body of the Department of Health and Social Care.

Previously, she has been an executive Director of Nursing in two acute trusts, a Director in a Primary Care Trust commissioning organisation and Director of Nursing for the North West London area team at NHS England.

Dr Chaffer also holds a PhD is in health care leadership and has a master’s degree in management and social care.


The result comes following a difficult year for the union after incumbent Professor Anne Marie Rafferty CBE and Stuart McKenzie were both disqualified from the 2020 presidential elections for using RCN social media resources to reach out to voting members.

A privilege.

Dr Chaffer will take up the role from 1 July and will serve as RCN President until 31 December 2022.

Denise said: “It’s a huge honour to be elected President of the RCN, to help amplify the voice of nursing and promote the value of our highly skilled profession. I would like to thank everyone who voted for me, those that nominated me, as well as the candidates that stood alongside me.

“Nursing staff have been at the forefront of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic – the past 18 months have been challenging for the whole of the health service – yet at the same time we have seen the value of nursing and how nursing touches so many lives.


“I’m committed to using this role to influence national policy on what is needed to recruit and retain nursing staff within the profession, using research evidence to demonstrate the need for fair pay, safe staffing, fairer processes and increased wellbeing support. I’m also determined to help drive improvements in equality, diversity and inclusion and ensure all areas of nursing care are valued and recognised.

“It is a privilege to have this opportunity and I’m looking forward to focusing on how the professional and trade union arms of the RCN work together to support all members to be the best they can be.

“Finally, I would like to extend my thanks and recognition to Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty CBE FRCN for all the work she has done as outgoing President of the RCN.”

Under the spotlight.

Pat Cullen, RCN Acting General Secretary & Chief Executive, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Dr Denise Chaffer as our new President at a time when nursing has such a high profile and is under the spotlight more than ever before.

“RCN Presidents have embodied the ambition, vision and values of members for more than a century, influencing nursing and improving patient care. I warmly congratulate Denise and know she will uphold these attributes, bringing vast experience, energy and commitment to the role.


“I offer my deepest thanks to Professor Rod Thomson FRCN and Maria Trewern for standing for election. Though I know they will be disappointed today, their contribution to the College remains invaluable.”

Shaun Williams, the student RCN Council Member, added; “I would like to offer hearty congratulations to Denise (and commiserations to both Rod and Maria).

“As Denise is a former national advisor for Students at the RCN, I really hope that she puts student nurses and newly qualified nurses front and centre of activity– we are the future of the College”.”

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