Tensions are running high at a crunch meeting of the Royal College Nursing in which members are due to vote on a motion of no confidence in the leadership.
The extraordinary general meeting (EGM) is taking place in Birmingham today in response to a petition signed by 1,000 members of the college calling for the council to stand down.
The row erupted over the RCN’s handling of the 2018 NHS pay deal in England. As previously reported, members accused the college leaders of misleading them over the offer after many received much less in their July pay packets than they were expecting.
The controversary led to the resignation of the RCN’s former chief executive, Janet Davies. The RCN also commissioned an independent review into its processes and communications around the pay deal.
The investigation by Electoral Reform Services found leaders did not fully understand the deal and therefore issued incorrect information to members.
The press has been excluded from the EGM, which is due to end at 4pm, but Nursing Times has seen a copy of chair of council Maria Trewern’s opening speech.
Ms Trewern was expected to say: “I am not here today to make excuses. Leadership for me is about taking responsibility, and that is what I, and we the council, have done.
She said: “Let me begin with a very simple point. You, the members, are right to hold the college to account for the way it handled the communications around the pay deal in England and how your concerns were dealt with. I really hope by the time we have concluded our debate today we will be able to find some common understanding.
“Because that is when the RCN is at its strongest,” she said. “Not riven by internal issues but standing up as one for our members against anything thrown at the profession. When we do this, as with last year’s fantastic “Scrap the Cap” campaign, we can achieve great things.”
Ms Trewern was due to apologise to members of behalf of the college over the “mistakes” it made during the pay deal campaign and for not listening well enough to the issues raised by members.
She was expected to outline the “appropriate” actions the council had taken since the extent of the failings around the deal emerged, including commissioning the independent review.
The draft speech also hints that further leaders at the college may lose their position. “The departure of Janet Davies was I believe necessary, and you have heard about further management change today,” Ms Trewern was expected to say.
She was due to conclude by saying: “As nurses and HCAs we often talk of respect. For me, one of the most sincere forms of respect is listening to the views of others. We are listening. And I give you all my word – and that of council – that things will change.”
Social media has been alive with activity by members attending the EGM.
Elaine Maxwell, who voted for the no confidence vote due to concerns over its governance arrangements rather than the pay deal, expressed “outrage” on Twitter after acting RCN chief executive Donna Kinnair allegedly said the petitioners were checked for political allegiances.
Others on Twitter said there were disappointed by the turnout by members, with reports of around 100 in attendance.
June Girvin, an emeritus professor of nursing, revealed that the council reportedly admitted to having no plans in place if the no confidence vote was successful.
Prof Girvin wrote on Twitter: “Good grief. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Council don’t actually know what they will do if the resolution is carried. Did they not consider a contingency for that? It’s this lack of insight and strategic skill that worries me more than anything.”
Danielle Tiplady presented the no confidence resolution on behalf of the campaigners and is said to have branded the pay deal a “disaster”.
More to follow…