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RCN congress rejects call to create elected general secretary

Some members believe high-profile role should be split from that of college chief executive

Some members believe high-profile role should be split from that of college chief executive


Mike Travis, speaking for the motion to review the joint college leader role.
Picture: John Houlihan

A call to review the RCN’s joint chief executive/general secretary role and introduce an elected general secretary was rejected by the college's annual congress.

Proposing the motion, Mike Travis, Liverpool and Knowsley branch, said the motion was no reflection on the current leadership, but a bid to modernise the RCN. He said many trade unions, including the British Medical Association, elected their general secretary.

The college's dual position is currently held by Dame Donna Kinnair, who was appointed in April.

‘It’s about the whole structure of the RCN. The current executive is a small group of people for a very large organisation,' Mr Travis said.

However, other speakers expressed concerns about low voter turnout, and whether an elected general secretary would necessarily have the skills for the role.

Liz Longstaff from Staffordshire argued: ‘If you separate the roles you are treading on dangerous ground as things will slip through the net.’

She added that, given a choice between popularity and competence, ‘we want competence every time.’

Legacy of damaging pay row

Danielle Tiplady of inner North East London, who seconded the motion, said change was needed to rebuild the bond between members and the office of the general secretary.


Voting members lodge their ballot papers. Picture: John Houlihan

Her comment was a reference to a row about the pay deal for NHS members in England last year, in which the then college general secretary/chief executive Janet Davies stepped down.

Professor Kinnair was subsequently appointed interim head of the organisation before being confirmed in the twin role last month.

‘I’d like to reiterate this is not about Donna Kinnair and I congratulate her on being appointed,' said Ms Tiplady.

'Looking back to the issues of the past year, part of the problem was the general secretary became disconnected from the membership, thus losing the accountability to the membership.’

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