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.