Frances Hughes: Door is open for RCN to re-join International Council of Nurses

Chief executive of the International Council of Nurses says ‘the door is very much open’ for the RCN to re-join.

Chief executive of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) says ‘the door is very much open’ for the RCN to re-join.

ICN chief executive Frances Hughes. Picture: ICN

Frances Hughes said she would welcome the college’s return, as the ICN seeks to defend the rights of nurses who are from, and working in, Europe during the upcoming Brexit process.

The college left the ICN in 2014 following a dispute over the cost of its annual membership fee, arguing that it could not justify spending £500,000 a year on fees.

The college’s contribution, based on the number of registered nurses in its membership, had been rising, partly due to fluctuations in the exchange rate.

Speaking to Nursing Standard ahead of the ICN congress, Dr Hughes said: ‘Nurses face many challenges relating to global and regional transformation, and it will be essential to have the right strategies in place to respond to them.


‘One of the biggest is of course Brexit and the effect of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union on nurses on both sides.

‘I have a good working relationship with [RCN general secretary] Janet Davies and I fully recognise that UK organisations were among the founding members of ICN.

‘I would like to have English representation around the table when the Brexit talks take place.

‘The door is always very much open to the RCN to return one day. It is a powerful and strong organisation, and I know the board and the management will always do what is right for members.’

Dr Hughes, who is due to give the closing keynote speech about the future of the Geneva-based ICN on 31 May, added Brexit was causing concern across her organisation.

She added: ‘Obviously it is not something that can be achieved lightly and it will be important that nurses make the right decisions for them.

‘I am a UK passport holder, so I am following events closely to see how this will affect my ability to work here in Europe.’


New Zealand native Dr Hughes pointed to the merger of health services between New Zealand and Australia 30 years ago as an example of the importance of nurses’ involvement in policy.

She said: ‘One day we went to sleep as nurses registered only in New Zealand; next morning we woke up with the ability to work all across Australia as well – but we didn’t know what it meant.

‘We’d had little say on the policy decisions behind it and, as a result, it just kind of happened to us.

‘We don’t want a repeat of that this time around. Nurses must make their voices heard in terms of how and where they want to be able to work.’

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