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Leading nurses unveiled as new holders of RCN presidential roles

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Two “outstanding” nurses with honours from the Queen have been elected to top positions at the Royal College of Nursing.

Anne Marie Rafferty and Yvonne Coghill have been voted in as the college’s next president and deputy president, respectively.

“There are clearly many challenges ahead for nursing so we need to pull together as members”

Anne Marie Rafferty

The pair have both previously received a CBE from the Queen, and a fellowship from the RCN.

They were elected today from the 11 candidates who stood for the two positions and will take up office in the new year to serve a term of two years.

Acting chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said Professor Rafferty and Ms Coghill were “outstanding candidates” who “fought strong campaigns”.

“The backing they have received from members is a testament to the lifetime contribution they have made to nursing and the clear ambition they’ve shown for our profession,” Dame Donna said.

“I warmly congratulate both today and look forward to working with them closely in the years ahead,” she added. “I have faith they will bring creativity, vast experience and energy to the task of refocusing the RCN in 2019 and beyond.”

Professor Rafferty – who has been named one of the most influential nurses in the 70 years of the NHS ­– is professor of nursing policy at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care at King’s College London.

“It’s a huge honour to be elected and a very special feeling to know that you’ve been chosen by fellow nurses”

Yvonne Coghill

She has been involved in the RCN since 2015 acting as a representative on the college’s health quality improvement partnership and is currently a member of its safe staffing expert reference group.

Professor Rafferty, who is also a member of the Nursing Times advisory board, said it was a “thrilled” to be selected.

“It is a huge privilege to become RCN president and I’m looking forward to supporting the profession and the college in the best way that I can,” she said. “I want to sincerely thank my campaign team and let them know how grateful I am for their support I am.

“There are clearly many challenges ahead for nursing so we need to pull together as members to put the profession at the forefront and face those challenges,” added Professor Rafferty who, as RCN president, will act as an ambassador for the nursing profession and represent the college to the public and members.

She said her first priority internally would be looking at governance and communication in the RCN – two areas the college was criticised for during the recent pay deal debacle. Tackling safe nurse staff levels will be her focus externally.

As revealed by Nursing Times, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has suggested he is willing to consider safe staffing legislation in England, following in the footsteps of Wales. Professor Rafferty said she was “keen to connect with him and establish strong links”

Ms Coghill is director of the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) at NHS England. The WRES is used to assess NHS trusts on the diversity and equality in the workplace. 



Yvonne Coghill

She has supported the RCN throughout her career as a frequent speaker at Black History Month events and presenting workshops at Congress.

Reflecting on her appointment, Ms Coghill said: “It’s a huge honour to be elected and a very special feeling to know that you’ve been chosen by fellow nurses because they think you’re good enough to represent them.

“I’ve been a member of the RCN all my working life and have always been supportive of what the RCN is and what it seeks to achieve,” said Ms Coghill.

“Nursing is the best profession in the world so it needs a strong professional body and a strong trade union arm,” she said.

“There’s lots of work to do but I’m excited about the prospect of working with members to make the RCN the best it can possibly be,” she added.

The pair, who will serve as members of the RCN council as part of their new roles, will succeed outgoing president Dr Cecilia Anim, who has served in the role since 2014, and deputy president Professor Rod Thomson.

A total of 6.9% of RCN members took part in the vote.

Professor Rafferty was elected with a 26% majority and Ms Coghill, a 35% majority.

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