A vote of no confidence in the Royal College of Nursing’s governing council is to be held later this month during an extraordinary general meeting (EGM), it has been announced.
Members will be asked to vote on a “special resolution” that relates to the RCN Council’s leadership and calls on office holders to step down.
The meeting, to be held on Tuesday 29 November, is in response to a damning independent inquiry into the culture of the college, which published its findings last month.
The investigation by Bruce Carr KC exposed “division, dysfunction and distrust” riddled throughout the RCN’s leadership and laid bare issues of bullying, misogyny and a lack of diversity within its council.
The review also revealed the RCN’s annual congress had an “inappropriate sexual culture” that was “seen by many as an opportunity to engage in sexual activity” and where the “risk of exploitation is significant”.
When the report was published in October, RCN chief executive and general secretary Pat Cullen said investigations would follow into incidents described in the report and that a formal meeting would be convened following the publication.
The college has today announced that the EGM will include a vote on a special resolution, which is a question of confidence in RCN Council’s leadership during the time period looked at by Mr Carr.
The resolution, which has come from college members, also calls for relevant council office holders to step down.
The EGM will take place at the RCN headquarters in London and online, and will explore what actions are being taken in response to the review. Attendees will hear from both Ms Cullen and Mr Carr.
The review by Mr Carr, a leading expert in the field of industrial relations law, was commissioned by the RCN in September 2021, as part of a “commitment to change” by the college.
It covered allegations of sexual harassment, and looked at equality and inclusion, decision-making and accountability, financial management, management of the departure of staff and elected members, and the roles and responsibilities of elected members.
Within his report, Mr Carr had stated the way RCN Council was run was “not fit for purpose” and that it was seen by many as a “bullying and misogynistic environment in which women and those from the [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] BAME community are not welcome”.
“I am very clear that we must listen to what we are being told by our members and act decisively”
His review had highlighted that 60% of the RCN Council were male – despite the RCN’s membership being almost 90% female.
In addition, the council was “not reflective of the fact that around 45% of RCN members are from the BAME community”, the report said.
There was a culture in which the college was “seen to be run by middle-aged, White men”, Mr Carr had said in his report.
Over the last three years, there have been five resignations from RCN Council, four of which were women and three from a minority ethnic background.
Mr Carr said the council was seen by many as “a misogynistic environment in which loud and abrasive male voices dominate the environment to the detriment of women”.
A vote of no confidence in the union’s council was passed around four years ago following backlash over the way the 2018 NHS pay deal was communicated to members.
A significant 78% of RCN members who took part in the ballot voted in favour of the no confidence motion. The results were revealed at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) held in Birmingham in September 2018.
The latest EGM news comes at an awkward time for the RCN, as the official results of its UK-wide strike ballot over nurse pay are expected any day now.
As reported by Nursing Times earlier today, the RCN has been forced to reassure members that the official outcome of its ballot is yet to be announced, after widespread reporting from national press suggested RCN sources had said strike action was set to take place before Christmas.
Members of the college had taken to social media to express their disappointment and concern over not being informed of the results directly, ahead of the national press.
NHS nurses across the UK have been balloted by the RCN for the past four weeks on whether they want to strike over the government’s below-inflation pay awards for 2022-23.
In a statement for Nursing Times, Ms Cullen said: “Following the publication of the independent review into RCN culture, we made a clear commitment to act on the findings and ensure members have the strong, professional and representative organisation they deserve.
“We have already taken important steps and work is ongoing. I am very clear that we must listen to what we are being told by our members and act decisively.”
The EGM will be held on Tuesday 29 November 2022 from 2-5pm at RCN HQ, 20 Cavendish Square, London and online.