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Francis report: RCN labelled 'ineffective'


Robert Francis QC has described the Royal College of Nursing as “ineffective” both as a professional organisation and as a trade union, and it should consider separating its two roles.

In his landmark public inquiry report on the scandal at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, Mr Francis said of the RCN: “Little was done to uphold professional standards among nursing staff or to address concerns and problems faced by its members.”

He said the “prime reason” for the RCN’s failure was the lack of effective representation from officers on site at Stafford and the support available to them from the regional and national level.

Mr Francis concluded: “It appears there is a concerning potential for conflict between the RCNs professional role of promoting high standards in nursing, and its union role of negotiating terms and conditions and defending members’ material and other narrow interests.”


Readers' comments (48)

  • tinkerbell

    RCN. It's a fair cop! You've been found out.

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  • Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    At last someone has noticed that the RCN is ineffective. Fantastic!

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  • Not in a position to comment about RCN/Mid Staffs but....
    bear in mind the NMC has now closed its professional advice line saying that unions should be taking on that role so wanting the unions to have the 2 roles. That & this Francis Report recommendation are incompatible so where do we go from here?

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  • Wonder if the NMC is thinking about increasing fees yet again, with more 'admin' of regulating HCAs. The NMC's not been much help with professional advice even before they closed this service.

    I feel that a lot of people wouldn't be in unions if it wasn't for the constant treat of being suspended, dismissed or sued, from things that we may or may not have control over.
    Are there figures on how many staff are in unions and professional organisations compared with the total numbers employed?
    Registered staff numbers would be easier to obtain, but for non-registered staff it is unclear. I would guess it's a relatively much smaller proportion in professional organisations.

    Also regardless if people are in unions or not, it is difficult when the majority are apathetic and are not willing to become active and vocal where it counts, to improve things. Life is hard enough without sticking heads above the parapet. Some have commented that being a basic rep doesn't pay or have benefits for them, so why should I become one. Also non-members say they get to benefit from the successes achieved from staff-side reps to those who negotiate on the national level for the benefit of all staff, while not hit with union membership fees.

    System wide problems makes it very challenging to enable us to do any job well and leaves us banging our heads against solid objects.

    Patient compassion and care have been neglected mostly as a result of a lack of compassion and care of employees from their employers.

    It will be interesting to see if the RCN will consider splitting up its roles, or to focus on one or the other. I think most the union fee would be for indemity insurance. It has already separated its charity side, like other organisations to meet legal requirements, and protect charity's funds from getting sucked into other parts of the organisation, where litigations could cost a lot for members.

    Implementing all of the Francis recommendations will be very welcome. Will this government push this through or continue with more rhetoric.

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  • Why do people keep thinking it is the role of the regulator to provide nursing advice or assist nurses? It isn't. A regulators primary focus is protection of the public. The report is right - the RCN needs to decide whether it is a union or a learned society - it cant be both. Other healthcare professions have managed to sort out the three strands many many years ago why not nursing?

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  • desertdeserter | 6-Feb-2013 12:34 pm

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    At last someone has noticed that the RCN is ineffective. Fantastic!

    Well Ha'd!
    I think you speak for many of us. It will be interesting to hear what Dr Carter has to say.

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  • Gary Musgrove

    I look forward to read the whole Francis report and its recommendations and that is all they are at this stage !!! It is no good "criticising" professional bodies such as RCN and NMC when it was the nursing and medical staff at the named hospital who needed to polish up their practice to prevent the extraordinary events that took place. The majority of health care organisations are a safe place to be cared for so lets not get on our "high horse" just because there is a new report published and you want to be involved in the "slanging match". Nurses and doctors at the named hospital should have been more professional and diligent as to what was going on and done something about the problem at the time or requested DOH assistance if it was beyond their scope to put right, maybe then this whole saga of a report and its cost would have been prevented. So come on guys, stop "calling" what is suppose to be a "no blame culture NHS" and look at your own practice and ask yourself " did I do a good job or could I have done it better" or better still ask your patient !!

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  • nurses and doctors at the hospital did try to do something as evidenced by the nearly 1000 critical incident forms they put in about staffing levels, poor care etc, which incidentally where found in a managers bin.
    Staff who had the temerity to complain were bullied and forced to resign or left because they could no longer cope with the atmosphere.
    Thankfully the Francis report has highlighted this manager driven culture, where targets and bolstering ones CV came above all else.
    When it comes down to it, it takes a brave soul to put their head above the parapet and shout "this is wrong" especially when you are forced to follow internal complaints procedure which is effectively complaining about the people you are complaining too.
    I sincerely hope that whistle blowers gain legal protection, and managers are forced to act on concerns rather than burying the problem and the whistle blowers career.
    Because until their is a consequence on their failure to act on concerns from the frontline, then there will be another mid staffs in the making.

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  • Glad the RCN has been highlighted, I have felt for some years they are too close to Management and are ineffective, did little to help with an issue I raised!

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  • Susan Markham

    Hah! The RCN “twinset and pearls” brigade finally called out for what it really is!

    An “inherent conflict between the professional and trade union functions of the RCN which may diminish the authority of its voice on professional issues” is a polite way of saying the RCN merely likes to kiss the gluteus maximus of management and government.

    Back in the day (when I was a Regional CoSHE Union rep) it used to really annoy the heck out of me that the RCN had more seats on the Whitley Council than the unions did... despite the fact they represented fewer Registered Nurses. I remember the days when they wouldn't allow SENs to join the RCN because (although SENs were regulated by the same General Nursing Council that RNs were) SENs were not “Registered” Nurses. Hell, I am so old that I remember the days when they didn't allow male Nurses to join because “men cannot be Nurses!”

    Yup, it was that same kind of mentality that led Queen Victoria to agree to government legislation against male homosexuality but not the female variant because – she said - “women simply do not do that sort of thing!”

    The RCN have always resisted being called to account for its supposed 'union' label. I once had an RCN rep haughtily tell me “Oh dear me no, we are not a union, we are are a professional body. Unions are for the working class – not nurses!” WTF?

    The RCN have stubbornly refused to join the Trades Union Council and therefore I would sincerely urge any nurses who are currently training NOT to join the RCN because they will not receive adequate representation should they ever have the occasion to need it.

    I also hope that – in the light of the findings of the Francis Report - the Nursing Times will begin to increasingly distance itself from the RCN and the arcane culture it represents. Alas, for far too long, reading the NT magazine was synonymous with reading an RCN journal. I note, thankfully, that since the NT has gone “online” this trend seems to have begun to change.

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