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RCN seeks exit from international nursing federation

Members of the Royal College of Nursing will be asked to vote on whether the union should leave the International Council of Nurses later this month, following a long-running dispute over membership fees.

The RCN has been in discussion with the ICN, a federation of 130 nursing organisations, for the past six years about the level of fees it pays.

The membership fee is calculated according to the number of members in the organisations that it comprises. At present membership of the ICN costs the college over £500,000 a year.

In a statement, RCN chair of council Professor Kath McCourt said: “Fees have been rising because of exchange rate fluctuations and because the ICN calculates fees on the number of nurse members in the representative organisation of each country.

“This means our fees represent 16% of the overall ICN subscription income, which equates to more than half a million pounds annually. We believe this is unsustainable.”

College members will decide whether to authorise the RCN Council to withdraw from the ICN at an extraordinary general meeting scheduled to be held at this year’s RCN Congress. The conference will take place from 21-25 April in Liverpool.

Discussions with the ICN will conclude at a meeting of its Council of Representatives in May. There has been limited progress in agreeing a new fees model to date.

Professor McCourt added: “The RCN is fully committed to continuing to work with international partners on issues of common interest to nursing at home and abroad.”

But Tom Bolger, a former assistant general secretary of the RCN, told Nursing Times he would vote against the move.

He said: “There is no doubt that something needs to be done about the amount of money the RCN pays and the ICN needs to smarten its act up. But I am concerned that too much of the discussion has been behind closed doors.

“There should have been a consultation with the members during the last 18 months so that we can be making an informed decision about how the RCN goes about its international work instead of bouncing us into a decision at an EGM, which are for unexpected and urgent business.

“This has been in the ether for years. It won’t get my support.”

A college spokeswoman said: “The RCN has not been conducting discussions behind closed doors – we will be making all the information available to members and the decision will be theirs.

“The issue has also been discussed repeatedly in Council, where members have had the opportunity to hear from David Benton of the ICN.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Maybe the RCN could borrow Mrs Thatcher's handbag and get a more proportionate and better deal for UK nurses.
    We should not be isolated by leaving an international forum.

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  • yet another step backwards for poor impoverished little britain.

    with all the money already forked out in foreign aid these fees are well affordable and richer countries should support the poorer ones in a true spirit of generosity.

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  • Peter Goble

    These institutions are outdated and smell of gravy-train and croneyism. There are other, simpler and more effective ways for nurses to share experience, knowledge and to enjoy fellowship.

    Ditch the ICN membership, and maybe its time to ditch the RCN too as unfit for purpose. What was that purpose, exactly?

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  • The RCN, in my opinion, is a complete waste of time. In all the years- from 1966 until 1997- that is, when I was a practising registered nurse.
    I was a COSHE (later to be changed to UNISON) member myself, which was little better. Both unions were ineffective in the way they dealt with nursing disputes with NHS managers.
    It is no wonder that the NHS has deteriorated over the past five decades and has now become a third rate service.

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  • I fully agree with Iama Cynic. I am not, and never have been, an RCN member, but they do seem to be a toothless organisation. Unison is also proving to be a complete waste of time too, I am struggling to get any sense from them, they rarely reply to correspondence, and seem to be in bed with management in my Trust. I have been advised I must be in a union in case of a negligence claim, but I have no confidence that they wouldn't simply hang me out to dry if I ever needed them to represent me. So that's another £100+ wasted every year.

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