The trade unions’ watchdog is investigating a complaint against the Royal College of Nursing following claims a council member was unfairly bared from standing as deputy president due to a database error.
A Certification Office hearing on Tuesday will consider claims by former RCN council member David Dawes that he was ousted and excluded from standing as deputy president, after his membership was found to have lapsed.
Mr Dawes claimed his membership was cancelled automatically with no warning, due to technical fault with the RCN database.
He said the “wide spread” problems were leading to many nurses being stripped of their membership by mistake.
As RCN membership also includes indemnity cover for practising professionals, such a database error could alarm some members. However, a spokesman for the college said it would be “inappropriate” for it to comment on that, or on the case, until after the hearing.
Mr Dawes has submitted a witness statement to the Certification Office. This names nine college members he personally knows to have been affected, including two regional board members, a lead steward and a former national committee member.
The statement reads: “There is a widespread problem within the RCN of members having their membership automatically terminated without receiving the warning letter that is stipulated in the union rules.”
It says an external audit of the system had revealed “hundreds of errors in the database system, hundreds of error logs… and… poor strategic awareness of the system problems in the RCN at a senior level.”
The RCN refused to release the audit and other internal findings as they were seen as confidential, according to the statement.
Former council vice-chair Gerry Bolger stood down last summer in protest at the decision to remove Mr Dawes.
He told Nursing Times: “I had a duty as council member to support corporate decisions; however… I really didn’t support how this had been handled by the organisation as a whole or by the council.
“The organisation will need to tighten up [its systems] and understand why it’s losing the number of members it is.”
Around 1,800 names are deleted from the RCN register each month, although it is not known how many of these are due to technical errors.
If the Certification Officer rules in Mr Dawes’ favour, the RCN may have to re-run the deputy presidential election.
An spokesman for the college said that “RCN membership has been growing month on month for a number of years, and is at an all time high”.