It is not a member of TUC or ICTU and is not affiliated to any political party.
At the end of 2010 its membership stood at 409,801, including 13,418 members in Northern Ireland. Members include registered nurses, student nurses and healthcare assistants.
The union covers four regions: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English regions. The six RCN branches across Northern Ireland hold regular meetings and organise events to promote nursing and the RCN at a local level.
Its governance structure consists of an RCN Council, responsible for policy making, and the executive team of legal services, communications, publishing, nursing and regional directors, headed by Chief Executive and General Secretary Peter Carter. Northern Ireland’s Regional Director is Janice Smyth.
Established in 1916 with 34 members, the RCN evolved from a professional organisation for trained nurses and a charity to a professional union. Its status as a charity ceased in 2010 when the independent RCN Foundation was established. A royal charter was granted in 1928 which stated that the RCN would promote “the science and art” of nursing at home and abroad. Men were admitted in 1960 and in 1977 it was registered as a trade union.
Frontline First is its main campaign which outlines the cuts required in each region and calls for members to reveal where those cuts are affecting patient care, examples of waste and inefficiency and of innovation on the front line.
On pensions, the RCN has welcomed the Government’s proposal that no one within 10 years of retirement will have to work longer or have a decreased pension. However, it was critical of the fact that the contributions from other healthcare staff are still planned to rise by up to 50 per cent from 2015. The RCN believes that nurses have not been properly engaged in the review of healthcare in Northern Ireland. In its submission, it said that a move from acute to primary care needs an appropriate workforce development plan. The RCN urged its members to join the TUC’s day of action on 30 November as a show of support and to oppose pension reform.
A book on nursing in the Troubles is due to be published in 2013. Northern Ireland gained a reputation for its expertise in microsurgery and prosthetics from treating patients injured by bombs and bullets, and the RCN is currently recording the real life stories of those nurses involved.
Internationally, the RCN works with partners such as the International Council of Nurses, the European Public Health Alliance and the International Confederation of Midwives to monitor and lobby on European policy and proposed legislation. It also works with other UK NGOs such as Action for Global Health, Marie Stopes International and the stop aids campaign to develop better health in developing countries.
The RCN received £1.1 million in subscriptions from Northern Ireland in 2010. Its total income for the year ended March 2011 was £71 million and its costs were £63 million. Its assets at March 2011 were £37 million and its liabilities were £7 million.
Chief Executive & General Secretary: Dr Peter Carter
Northern Ireland Director: Janice Smyth
Chair of Northern Ireland Board: Ann Marie O’Neill