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RCN urged to make election policy clearer after disqualification controversy

Policy should be ‘clear and concise’ with a rethink of sanctions, finds independent review

Policy should be clear and concise with a rethink of sanctions, finds independent review

The RCN has been advised to make its election policies clearer in the wake of complaints about the disqualification of two candidates in the colleges 2020 presidential campaign.

Disqualifications led to review of RCN elections

Voting was suspended in August after incumbent president Anne Marie Rafferty and mental health nurse Stuart McKenzie were disbarred from the poll.

The colleges then returning officer, who was responsible for managing elections, said the pair had broken a rule prohibiting the use of RCN resources namely its social media platforms.

But an independent review by barrister

Policy should be ‘clear and concise’ with a rethink of sanctions, finds independent review

RCN headquarters, Cavendish Square, London
RCN headquarters, Cavendish Square, London

The RCN has been advised to make its election policies clearer in the wake of complaints about the disqualification of two candidates in the college’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Disqualifications led to review of RCN elections

Voting was suspended in August after incumbent president Anne Marie Rafferty and mental health nurse Stuart McKenzie were disbarred from the poll.

The college’s then returning officer, who was responsible for managing elections, said the pair had broken a rule prohibiting the use of RCN resources – namely its social media platforms.

But an independent review by barrister Simon Cheetham QC, commissioned by the RCN’s ruling council and published last November, found no candidate had sought unfair advantage. It also found the returning officer had acted within the rules.

Independent review publishes recommendations for future RCN elections

In the second part of his report, published this week, Mr Cheetham made a series of recommendations on how elections should be handled in future.

He called for the RCN’s 30-page election policy document to be rewritten to make it ‘clearer and more concise’.

Other recommendations included:

  • A clear definition of what constitutes an RCN resource
  • Appointing an independent returning officer for elections
  • A review of complaint handling, including notifying a candidate immediately if a complaint is made about their conduct and giving them a time-limited opportunity to respond.

Mr Cheetham also recommended adding the option of a warning for any future rule breaches by candidates.

‘Disqualification is the ultimate sanction, but I can see no reason why there should not be a lesser sanction of a warning,’ he said.

‘For example, a candidate may have inadvertently breached the rules or the breach might be minor, so it is sensible to have the power to provide a warning.’

Dave Dawes, chair of the RCN council
Dave Dawes

Redefined rules will be approved by RCN council before presidential election

RCN council chair Dave Dawes said a number of recommendations outlined in Mr Cheetham’s initial report, published in November, had already been taken forward.

These include amending campaign guidelines to allow greater use of social media platforms and delegating the responsibilities of the returning officer to an independent scrutineer.

‘The RCN governance support committee will now work on redefining the rules relating to the RCN elections policy, and this will be voted on by RCN council ahead of the presidential election,’ he added.


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