The Royal College of Nursing has voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing full membership for healthcare support workers.
At its annual general meeting yesterday, the college approved a motion enabling “health practitioners” such as healthcare assistants to become full members. They will also be represented by two seats on the RCN council.
The motion was passed with 22,979 members in favour, accounting for 81.2% of the total vote.
Sandra James, who completed her second two-year term as chair of the council yesterday, said the new arrangement for HCAs was modelled on the status given to student nurses, and means healthcare assistants will vote for their two council representatives. However, they will not be able to contest the RCN council’s regional seats.
Previously healthcare assistants were only allowed to become associate members of the college, and had no representation on the RCN council.
Proposing the motion yesterday afternoon, Ms James said: “This is something we really want to change, to reflect the realities of modern nursing… we hope it provides HCAs with the appropriate level of influence.”
However, some RCN members expressed reservations. Former president Maura Buchanan said: “We have to look at what this organisation is about,” emphasising its focus on nursing as a profession. “You will end up with a split organisation, and members leaving,” she warned.
Former RCN council member John Hill said the resolution did not go far enough, as he would not be able to vote a healthcare assistant onto the council himself.
Linda Bailey, of the outer north east London branch, said that while she strongly supported the motion, the issue had been confused by establishing two council seats for healthcare practitioners.
At last year’s AGM, a motion to allow “all members of the nursing family” to become full RCN members was blocked after failing to win a two-thirds majority.