On Monday, the Royal College of Nursing Congress voted, by an overwhelming majority, to keep its dual status – as both a Royal College, selflessly promoting excellent practice with a focus on welfare of patients, and at the same time as a Union, promoting and protecting the welfare and interest of its members.
Not all Royal Colleges are like this. The Royal College of Surgeons and of Physicians, for example, are adamant that they should never take on any Union role, and keep interests of the practitioners completely separate from the function of the Royal College, which, they argue, should have a single, and relentless focus on quality of practice, of care, and patients. The intention is that the voice of a Royal College to the public is simply: “It’s all about you”.
The Francis Report, looking into how up to 1200 excess deaths occurred at Mid Staffs, had recommended that the Royal College of Nursing break off this dual function, to become solely focused on excellent nursing and care standards, with a relentless patient, not practitioner focus. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has just rejected this.
Of course, every institution has an inbuilt reluctance for change, and it is easy to see how and why the Royal College of Nursing would be resistant to altering its role. But I fear that this decision has missed a valuable opportunity for nurses and the nursing profession as a whole.