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DH backs 'clearer distinction' between RCN functions


The government has suggested that a “clearer distinction” between the professional and trade union functions of the Royal College of Nursing would boost its authority.

The Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report, published last month, warned that there was an “inherent conflict” between the two roles of the RCN, which may “diminish the authority of its voice on professional issues”.

In its response to the Francis report last week, the government agreed, saying: “The Royal College of Nursing has an important role in developing and promoting the art, science and practice of nursing. The government believes a clearer distinction between its professional and trade union roles, both important, would enhance the authority of its work.”

Professor Kath McCourt, chair of RCN Council, confirmed that the college had no plans to alter its structure in light of the Francis report.

“When we discussed this issue with members recently, the view was that giving a voice to nurses as a trade union complements our work as a professional body, and that the two sides gain strength from each other,” she said.

“We want to ensure that all our structures support that work and that both aspects remain strong for our members. As a member-led organisation, council will continue to discuss this with our members,” she added.


Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Yes But

    There is definitely a confusion between the RCN's union and expert professional body, roles. As usual, Francis was correct about that.

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  • The profession desperately needs a proper Royal College of Nursing that clearly differentiates it's union and professional responsibilities.

    The former Chief Nursing Officer, Robert Francis, the DH and many of its members are calling for greater clarity.

    As a member of the RCN I am hugely disappointed by the arrogance of RCN Council, the current position is damaging to our profession.

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  • The RCN was never very good at the trade union side of things because most of the nurse managers were also their members and they often took their side. Being an RCN rep was seen as a shortcut into management. Now, according to Francis, they aren't much good at the professional side either. What are they good for?

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