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Former RCN policy lead appointed global nursing body boss

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A nurse whose passion for health policy has helped him climb to the top is to take the helm of a global nursing federation.

Howard Catton will serve as chief executive of the International Council of Nurses for one year.

“Nurses are critical to addressing the health challenges we face”

Howard Catton 

Qualifying as a registered nurse in the UK in 1988, Mr Catton spent two decades working at the Royal College of Nursing.

He was the college’s head of policy and international affairs between 2005 and 2015.

In 2016, Mr Catton relocated to Geneva, Switzerland to join the ICN, where he became the director of nursing and health policy.

Mr Catton said it was an “absolute honour” to take on the chief executive role at “such a significant time”.

“Globally we have entered a period of huge opportunity for nurses and the nursing profession as world leaders recognise that nurses are critical to addressing the health challenges we face,” he added.

“Whether it be improving access to healthcare, addressing non-communicable diseases, managing health emergencies or improving public health, it is nurses who in their daily practice will make a real difference to peoples’ lives,” he said.

Citing key challenges facing the profession as staff shortages, poor pay and working conditions and growing demand on health services, Mr Catton said he believed now was the time to “push harder than we ever have before” for investment in nursing.

Mr Catton will help to lead the ICN’s work with the World Health Organization on raising the status of nursing worldwide through the Nursing Now campaign.

The ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nurse associations across the globe.

Mr Catton said the council’s member organisations had been the “bedrock” of its success and would continue to be at the heart of its work going forward. 

“Globally we have entered a period of huge opportunity for nurses”

Howard Catton 

“As someone who has spent much of his career working for an association, I know how important it is to listen, involve and be led by those nurses and members who daily are working in clinical practice and know the reality of healthcare delivery,” he added. 

Controversially, the RCN withdrew from the ICN in 2013 because of a row over membership fees.

This year’s RCN congress will include a discussion on whether the college should re-join the ICN, as reported by Nursing Times.

Annette Kennedy, president of the ICN, said she was “delighted” that Mr Catton had been appointed.

“His international experience, his close ties with so many of our key partners, and his deep understanding of the work of ICN, gives the board and me great confidence in his leadership,” she added.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I'm not sure that people like Mr Catton fully appreciate the lack of any connection that ordinary nurses feel towards them.

    I certainly don't feel that someone who's spent 20 years at the RCN followed by a move to Geneva has much in common with me.

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