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The governing council of the Royal College of Nursing has gone back on its decision to postpone an upcoming extraordinary general meeting (EGM), following upset from some members.
The announcement marks another twist in the ongoing fallout from the college’s 2020 presidential election and the disqualification of two candidates this summer.
It also comes on the same day as the publication of an independent review of the events of the election.
“It is clear that many members feel strongly about the issues that led to the meeting being called”
The EGM was called after a petition related to the disqualifications obtained the requisite 1,000 signatures from RCN members and was submitted to the college at the start of September.
Under RCN rules, the EGM should be held within three months of the petition being received, and had been scheduled for 27 November.
However, RCN Council took a shock vote last week to postpone the meeting indefinitely, citing the pressures of the second wave of Covid-19 as the reason.
The move was met by confusion and frustration by petitioners who said they would now look at organising the EGM themselves.
RCN Council has now performed a U-turn and has today voted to reverse its decision to postpone the EGM “after listening to members’ concerns”.
Making the announcement this evening, Dave Dawes (pictured above), chair of council, apologised for the confusion around the date of the meeting.
“We try our best as your governing council to make decisions on behalf of all members, but this isn’t always easy,” he added.
“It is clear that many members feel strongly about the issues that led to the meeting being called.
“We know some members booked time off work and arranged to attend. And while the winter pressures and Covid-19 remain as present as ever, we have a duty to listen and act on that strength of feeling.”
“I personally thank the chair of council for putting us back in course”
Stuart McKenzie, one of two presidential candidates disqualified in August alongside incumbent Professor Anne Marie Rafferty, welcomed the decision to reinstate the EGM but warned it should have been postponed in the first place.
Mr McKenzie is also a leading member of the Petitioners Working Group that secured the EGM.
“Covid-19 is never far from any of our thoughts, either professionally or personally, and the notion that somehow moving the EGM by a matter of weeks would have made any tangible difference remains a mystery to me,” he told Nursing Times.
“I personally thank the chair of council for putting us back in course and hope that the focus of RCN communications will be to ensure all members are aware of how to cast their vote and join the debate.”
The presidential election was terminated in September after the remaining two candidates withdrew.
At the EGM members will be asked to vote on two resolutions.
One of the resolutions, if passed, will make it possible for Professor Rafferty to remain in her post as president for a further six months following 1 January 2021, when her term is due to come to an end.
The other resolution is for a comprehensive review of the governance of the college, which would be led by RCN Council.
The independent review of the presidential election published today found no wrongdoing on behalf on the returning officer in regard to the disqualifications.
However, review author Simon Cheetham QC concluded that the college’s policy for elections needed to be “significantly revised”.
The RCN said members would be emailed reminders for proxy voting and joining instructions for the EGM next week.
The RCN election row as covered by Nursing Times