According to the motion, proposed by Cecilia Anim of Islington branch, the college’s council must now look at amending Rule 12 in its constitution.
The rule sets strict rules about what actions RCN members can take in the event of industrial action and enshrines the principle that patient care must not suffer as a result.
Originally the motion called for abolition of the rule, but this was altered following a vote to call for it to be amended.
Ms Anim said the existing rules laid down in law and by the NMC code of conduct already make it clear that nurses should not take any action that hurts patients.
However she added that this still did not prevent them from taking industrial action or going on strike if necessary to defend their rights as workers.
‘No nurse would anything that would harm a patient – their ethical, moral and professional code does not allow that. We want to know what we can do, rather than what we can’t do.’
Ms Anim said the rule was responsible for the delayed ballot on industrial action last year, which then gave rise to the RCN accepting a staged pay award from the government.
‘Members did not know what they were voting for. Rule 12 is not fit for purpose,’ she added.
Non-voting member Tom Bolger spoke out against the motion, claiming that the rule in its current form was there to protect members in the event of industrial action.
‘The RCN needs to protect itself. It was designed as response to employment litigation,’ he explained.
The amended motion was passed with 401 members voting in favour, 20 against and with six abstentions.