Why am I against the ‘vote of no confidence’ in the RCN?

“I feel that asking Council to resign is not in the best interests of the Royal College of Nursing or its members.”

Greg Usrey
9 September 2018

As you should be aware, the Royal College of Nursing will be holding an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) which will be held at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, convening at 11 AM on 28th September 2018.


The EGM has been called following a petition by 1,017 validated RCN members to discuss the communication and their confidence in the process surrounding the dissemination of information on the 2018 NHS pay deal in England. In addition, the signatories of the petition called for a vote of no confidence in the current leadership of the Royal College of Nursing and for them to stand down. Subsequent to submitting the petition the proposer of the petition has stated that the “current leadership” is a reference to the RCN Council. After speaking to some who signed the petition, they don’t want council to resign and just wanted an EGM – even though the petition clearly stated “We the undersigned also have no confidence in the current leadership of the Royal College of Nursing and call for them to stand down.”

Agree or disagree?

I’ve written two blogs about the EGM – one in August and one today. I have seen a lot of discussion from those who prepared & signed the petition and proposed the resolution which reads as such:

“We have no confidence in the current leadership of the Royal College of Nursing and call on Council to stand down.”

Members are being asked to AGREE, to DISAGREE or to ABSTAIN with this statement. I have not seen any discussion out there that views the EGM proposal from the angle of disagreeing with the resolution so I have set out to do that today.


Although much of the discussion has been in regard to the NHS England Pay Deal (and communication surrounding it), some proponents of the EGM Resolution state that this is far more than just the pay deal; that it is the loss of ‘power’ or lack of full use of ‘powers’ entrusted to our elected members on Council (and associated committees?). The RCN is member-led, but it is staff-run. We pay for staff to be knowledgeable and to lead teams and pieces of work and generally depend on them to research, advise and guide us; but we also expect our members who are elected into governance roles (such as Council) to scrutinise the advice, to critically appraise the guidance given to them and to give full consideration before making decisions.

The resolution calls on the ‘Council’ to stand down.

RCN Council consists of a total of 22 elected members: 17 members elected to cover ‘geographical areas’, a Representative from health care / clinical support workers (including Assistant Practitioners & trainee Nursing Associates), a Student Representative, the RCN President & Deputy President (both of whom are due to finish terms on 31st December) and a newly elected Chair of Congress (a non-voting member of Council).

Are members being asked to vote to have all 22 members above resign en masse? And what about the new Trade Union Committee and the new Professional Nursing Committee? Although technically not ‘Council’, they are part of Council and particularly in relation to the NHS England Pay Deal, the TU Committee members were instrumental in recommending the deal to Council. Members are already registering their proxy votes online, before there is even clarity on who is being asking to resign. The resolution calls on ‘Council’ to stand down, and according to the RCN Website, this includes all 22 elected members mentioned above. Members might get more than they have already registered a vote for!

The entire operating instructions for the RCN depend on having a ruling member Council. We could not run without them. We have elections onto Council for a 4-year term, but never all in the same year; half are voted in every two years. This ensures consistency, continuity and leadership. If they all resign, who would take their places? What sort of transition period would we have? How long would it take for the RCN to be back in a position where our ruling Council was strong and confident to steer us in already choppy seas? I see a great deal of risk in having all of Council resign.


Every member on RCN Council brings with them a long history of dedication and service to the RCN. Their expertise and ‘institutional memory’ are irreplaceable. In asking then to resign, I would imagine all of that knowledge and history will be lost forever to the RCN. I think it would be a tragic loss and would set us back years.

The RCN needs modernisation.

After days and weeks of discussion with colleagues, I think we can all agree that the RCN, like any trade union / professional organisation, needs modernising. We agree that we need better working relationships, more transparency, openness and trust moving forward. This is necessary and a priority moving forward. Huge structural and operational change is necessary and it does not require Council standing down to achieve this.

I am attending the EGM. I think the issues leading to this meeting require to be aired and members deserve a response; but I will be voting to DISAGREE with the resolution. Having a period of uncertainty with a ‘lame duck’ council, followed by an entirely new Council creates a long period of risk for the RCN and it does not, in itself, fix the ‘problems’ that led to the EGM being called. We could be back in the same position in 12 months’ time.

I expect that the voting cycle for Council will allow elections for about 50% of the 17 (19?) elected members and if a change is required, then use elections and the ballot box to bring about change.

Asking the Council to resign is not the best interests of members.

Like all the members I talk to who are passionate about the RCN, we all want what’s best for the RCN and the members who pay their ‘subs’. We all want modernisation and change. I feel that asking Council to resign is not in the best interests of the Royal College of Nursing or its members.


Council and staff need a clear steer from members about what change is required. They will be left in no doubt about what the expectations on them will be. The EGM can provide this – without asking them all to resign. The petition for the EGM was done electronically and achieved the required number of signatures in about ONE day. If we are in the process of modernising, this is one place I’d start. In the old days, petitions were haled door-to-door in a handcart, and 1000 signatures was a significant task. If we now can do it in a day without ever leaving our chair, has it now become too easy to call an EGM? Are we going to govern by EGM in future, whenever something passes that we don’t agree with? There is strong potential for that, in my opinion.

If you want what’s in the best interests of the College band its members, please vote ‘DISAGREE’ and let’s get busy putting the focus of the Royal College of Nursing back onto member’s needs – where it should be.

This EGM has cost us dearly and not just in financial terms.

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