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Legal and Governance Review previous updates

14 June 2012 update

RCN Congress – Legal and Governance Review

Boards Review – update and next steps

The Legal and Governance Review is now in its third year.  Phases one and two of the review saw key changes which ensure the RCN meets its legal obligations and is fit to meet the needs of nursing now and in the future.

The changes include:

These changes had to be implemented to ensure:

There is more information about when, why and how we made these changes on the RCN website at www.rcn.org.uk/newsevents/agm/2010 and www.rcn.org.uk/newsevents/agm/2011

RCN Boards review

Phase three of the review has been about the RCN Boards.

The link between Council, boards and branches is vital to ensuring that members’ voices are heard and influence decision-making at all levels.   Although there is much good practice there was a view that we needed to:

Consequently, Council has been working with the boards to develop a series of proposals to address these issues.

However, at RCN Congress, in May, members were clear that Council should have consulted more widely on this work.

I promised to set up meetings across the UK to talk through the proposals and to seek the views of branches, and they are now being organised. I will also convene a special Council meeting and reschedule the Board elections.

This will ensure there is plenty of time for the meetings to take place and for the feedback to inform our final decisions.

In addition a document [PDF 350KB] is being sent out in advance of the meeting to branch executive officers to inform their discussions. This will be emailed in June.  If you require a hardcopy version of the document please request one by emailing michelle.armstrong@rcn.org.uk.

I wish to reassure you that our aim is to give members, through branches and other local groups, a stronger voice in the RCN. We want to enhance ways of working between branches, Boards and Council as well as address inequalities in our current systems and processes.

At the meetings Boards will also update branch members on their transition plans as they move to their new ways of working and composition.

During Congress members also asked questions about branch finances and, in particular, Congress funding

The document will also explain the financial changes we must make following the recent change of our legal status.  I commit to ensuring that branches are fully involved in discussions about the transition period as we implement these changes and will send out information about that shortly.

We will also send branches the most up-to- date guidance on managing and using branch funds, including the arrangements for Congress funding. This will ensure that everyone has the current information.

In the meantime we have uploaded the consultation document.  Following the first consultation meering, we also put together a ways of working document which outlines RCN boards and the decision making framework.  This is being updated at the end of each week during the consultation to reflect the discussion at the different meetings with Branch Officers.  This is the latest version.  More information relating to branch finances will be available as soon as possible on this page.

Timeline for branch consultation

June, July and August – meetings for branch members to discuss the Board review proposals

Dates for branch consultations :

28 June - Scotland
9 July - South East
11 July - Eastern
11 July - Northern
12 July - London
13 July - West Midlands
6 August - East Midlands
6 August - Northern Ireland
7 August - South West
8 August - North West
8 August  - Yorkshire and the Humber
9 August - Wales

10 August – deadline for returning comments via the meetings or lgreview@rcn.org.uk

11 August to 31 August – collation of feedback

12 September – special Council meeting

Professor Kath McCourt CBE FRCN
Chair of RCN Council

1 January 2012 update

I am pleased to give you my first update on the Legal and Governance Review since being elected RCN Chair of Council.

Firstly I would like to thank all of you who attended the AGM in October last year.  It was great to see such a high attendance and to hear first-hand your questions, comments and concerns around the issues currently facing nursing.

The AGM saw votes on some important resolutions, and I was delighted with the success of the resolution to give health practitioners, such as health care assistants and assistant practitioners, full RCN membership.  Over 80% of you voted “yes”, giving health practitioners two guaranteed seats on Council.  This is an important step, as it is vitally important that all of our members have a voice at our top table.   At our February meeting Council will discuss and agree the timescales for the elections of our first health practitioner seats.

An overwhelming 98% of you voted to amend our Royal Charter so that that in the unlikely event of the RCN being wound up, any surplus would be distributed among the members of the College.  This means that, like many other membership organisations, the RCN will achieve mutual trading status. This is important for tax reasons, now that the RCN is no longer a registered charity.

The resolution to allow Council special dispensation to set member subscription rates was not agreed.  Council will now be reviewing how subscription rates are set in the future.  As you will know, Council already decided some time ago that there will be no rise in subscription rates for 2012.

You can read detailed results of the votes on the AGM website.

Another core work strand of the Legal and Governance review is the current review of our country and regional boards.  Many of you will be aware that there are a number of drivers for this review not least of which is variation in how the boards work.  Whilst there is much good practice it is really important to have consistent ways of working in place to ensure that the views of members in each country and region inform Council’s thinking and decision making.

Of course it’s vital that the boards themselves play a key role in the review and we are currently in the second phase of an engagement exercise with board members. It is really important that board members have the opportunity to consider the work that has been completed so far and provide information and ideas for the future.

I’m also very pleased that 1 January marks the introduction of our new membership categories which are far simpler and clearer.  You can find out more about the new categories on the membership pages of our website. 

If you wish to find out more about the Legal and Governance Review please feel free to email Council at our new email address – council@rcn.org.uk and myself, or one of my Council colleagues, will be please to respond.

Best wishes for a wonderful New Year

Kath

Professor Kath McCourt FRCN
Chair of RCN Council

28 October 2010 update

It was lovely to welcome so many of you to this year's RCN AGM, both in person and online. I am delighted to tell you that the vote to accept the revised Royal Charter and new standing orders was passed overwhelmingly.

This was an important milestone – our existing charter came into force in 1978, and both nursing and the RCN are very different today. These revised documents will reflect the College as it is now, including its role as a trade union, and will allow us to develop with our profession in the future.

The new charter and standing orders will now be sent to the Privy Council for approval, and it is expected that they will come into force in April 2011. Full details on the new documents and the vote result can be found on the AGM 2010 vote page.

RCN Council was disappointed that two of the seven votes were lost by such small margins, particularly the ballot to admit all members of the nursing family into full, as opposed to associate, membership.

I want to assure you that Council remains steadfast in its commitment to valuing and supporting our members who are health care assistants and assistant practitioners, and we were heartened that so many members were in favour.

Although the vote about subscriptions fell by just a fraction of one per cent, Council remains committed to ensuring that RCN members continue to get best value for their subscriptions as we face these challenging times.

The development of the new charter and standing orders was part of phase 2 of the Legal & Governance Review. Work will now begin on phase three – drawing up a new set of regulations and looking at the governance structure of the organisation. This is a major piece of work and will involve a lot of consultation with members. Please keep an eye on this page and let us know what you think in the coming months.

1 September 2010 update

Last year's AGM vote was very important. The changes you agreed to our Royal Charter brought us in line with charity legislation and enabled us to set up a separate charity – the RCN Foundation. This means that the RCN itself is no longer a registered charity.

Our work to modernise the governance structure continues and at the AGM 2010 we are asking you to consider some new proposals as part of phase two.

The next stage is to revise our governance documents so they reflect the way the College actually works today, as well as enable us to adapt and remain relevant to the nursing workforce as it develops in the future. Our current Royal Charter, bye-laws and rules need to be brought up to date to reflect the way we currently work – for example, the RCN's role as a trade union needs to be included.

RCN Council is also safeguarding and strengthening the voice of the membership in decision-making in our organisation – a principle which has been the key driver behind these proposals.

We are proposing four levels of governance regulation in the future – the Royal Charter, rules, standing orders and regulations – and only changes to the Royal Charter and new rules will need to go through the complex, and often time consuming, process of obtaining Royal approval. This is how the Privy Council prefers organisations like ours to work. The documents will make it very clear where decisions will be made and by whom.

We are also proposing to modernise the language of our governance documents to make them easier to understand. We must also ensure they reflect the RCN as it is today and allow it to grow and develop in line with changes in nursing and the nursing workforce.

Visit the AGM 2010 vote page to see a full copy of the proposed new Royal Charter and standing orders, along with a detailed description of where they differ from the current charter and bye-laws. We are also asking you to think particularly about a number of specific changes, so you are being asked to vote separately on each of those.

RCN Council and I are asking you to vote "Yes" to all our proposals to ensure we remain a modern and relevant organisation in the decades to come.

7 July 2010 update

Last year's AGM vote was very important. The changes you agreed to our Royal Charter brought us in line with charity legislation and enabled us to set up a separate charity – the RCN Foundation. This meant that the RCN itself is no longer a registered charity.

However, our work is not done and we are asking you to consider some new proposals to update our charter and establish new standing orders to replace the existing bye-laws. The RCN boards are currently discussing the proposals and they will then go to a membership vote at the AGM in October this year. We will also be taking into account previous discussions with boards and members' views at fringe events held at Congress in April.

We also welcome feedback from individual members and you can respond up until 27 September 2010 – branches too have a deadline of 27 September to come back to us with their thoughts. This will enable your views to continue to feed into this important and ongoing work as we start to develop a set of new regulations to support the new charter and standing orders.

You can find all the information you need on the phase two page.

The proposed changes are to revise our governance documents so they reflect the way the College actually works today, as well as enable us to adapt and remain relevant to the nursing workforce as it develops in the future. Our current Royal Charter, bye-laws and rules have not been kept up-to-date over the years and do not reflect the way we currently work – for example, there is no mention of the RCN being a registered trade union.

These changes will also safeguard and strengthen the voice of the membership in decision-making in our organisation – a principle which has been the key driver behind these proposals.

We are proposing four levels of governance regulation in the future and only changes at the very top level will need to go through the complex, and often time consuming, process of obtaining Royal approval. This is how Privy Council prefers organisations like ours to work. The documents will make it very clear about where decisions will be made and by whom.

We are also proposing to modernise the language of these documents and make them easier to understand. It will also ensure they reflect the RCN as it is today and allow it to grow and develop in line with changes in nursing and the nursing workforce.

Visit the phase two page for more information on the proposed changes, including full copies of the proposed new charter and standing orders along with a detailed description of where they differ from the current charter and bye-laws. You can also respond to the consultation online.

22 April 2010 update

I am pleased to announce that on the 1 April, phase one of the Legal and Governance Review was successfully completed with the introduction of the RCN's new legal structure. I want to reassure you that the RCN is still the same organisation as it was, but it is no longer a charity. 

The RCN Foundation was also set up at the start of this financial year through the Charity Commission and the Scottish Office of the Charity Regulator. This is an independent charity to support nursing and improve the health and wellbeing of the public. The foundation's own website is now live and can be viewed at: www.rcnfoundation.org.uk

From now on the RCN Benevolent Fund will be run by the foundation, providing assistance to members of the nursing family in need due to adversity or ill health. The foundation will also provide grants for improving nursing practice and for learning and development.

We are currently seeking people to join the charity's Board of Trustees. If you are interested in this exciting opportunity to help build the foundation, please visit www.rcnfoundation.org.uk  The closing date for applications is 7 May.

Our next steps

Now that phase one is complete, our focus moves to phase two: revising the RCN's Royal Charter, bye-laws and governance structure to make sure they reflect the College and its membership today and in the future.

It is crucial that we find out what our members think about these changes, and this consultation process begins at Congress, held in Bournemouth next week. The Governance Support Team is running two fringe events, providing an opportunity to talk to Council Members about the changes. These will be held on Wednesday and Thursday. There will also be the opportunity for members to discuss the review in one-to-one sessions throughout Congress week.

You may also be interested in the Future of Congress session held on Wednesday at 4.30pm in the main auditorium. This is an open discussion looking at how the RCN's biggest event could work in the future, as well as showing some snapshots from Congress in the past. Bring your ideas!

If you aren't going to Congress, don't worry – you will still be able to take part in the consultation through our website, or at your local branch and board meetings.  The results of the consultation will be fed back at the Council meeting in July, and will inform the changes that will be voted on at the AGM on 20 October in London. All members will be balloted. 

We've made great progress already with the setting up of the foundation, and I hope you get involved in the next phase so that we can ensure the RCN remains a membership organisation and union that truly reflects the needs of its members.

5 March 2010 update

We have been busy attending the RCN country and regional boards to talk about progress and next steps of our Legal and Governance Review. The aim is to consult with board members on updating the RCN's Royal Charter and Bye-laws, and to discuss with them how the RCN’s governance structure should be working. Feedback from the boards will be presented to RCN Council on 19 March and there will be discussions with members at fringe events at Congress. Members will also be able to comment and feed in ideas via our website post Congress in advance of a full membership ballot at the AGM in October.

Our aim is to modernise our constitutional documents and ensure they reflect the RCN as we are today. In particular we need to add a reference to the RCN being a trade union and to ensure they reflect the whole of our membership.

In short, our approach is to bring the documents up to date but at the same time to safeguard, and in some places strengthen, the membership voice in our decision making processes. The work around our governance structures is about clarifying our existing structures should be working.

The Privy Council has now formally approved our 2009 AGM amendments to the Royal Charter and the RCN Foundation has now been registered as a Charity.

Other key areas of interest to members are covered in the latest news section.

25 January 2010 update

As many of you will already be aware, the RCN is undertaking a review of its legal and governance structures. The goal is to continue to fulfil our aims as a professional trade union which meets the needs of nursing now and in the future.

We are already part way through the process - at the AGM last October our members voted overwhelmingly to set up a charitable foundation, separate from the RCN. The RCN will carry out its business as before but will be able to apply for funding from the Foundation for some of its activities - you can find out more about the next steps for the Foundation by reading the latest news section of this webpage. We're now moving into phase two of the review which includes looking at our RCN Royal Charter and Bye-laws to update them and ensure they accurately represent the RCN as we know it today.

Our aim is to make sure that we have a set of constitutional documents that are fit for purpose and demonstrate current practice. In particular we need to add in a reference to the RCN being a trade union and to ensure they reflect the whole of our membership.

In short, our approach is to modernise the documents but at the same time to safeguard, and in some places strengthen, the membership voice in our decision making processes.

We are taking the advice of lawyers who are experts in this type of constitutional work and seeking guidance of the Privy Council. At its meeting on 15 January, RCN Council agreed that it was very satisfied with the approach to the work so far. We will now be discussing it in more detail with our board members around the UK in advance of a full consultation with members on the proposed changes.

Council also heard updates on several other key areas of interest to members and these are covered in the latest news section.

18 December 2009 update

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and all the best for 2010!

We have updated our Question and Answer pages relating to the Legal and Governance Review and will update these again as members raise further queries. The discussion zone has been very busy with member comments, this helps us to respond to what you want to know about the review.

Throughout December and January we are talking to country and regional boards and have now added the presentation (PowerPoint 332KB) being given at those meetings to the website. Please have a look at it and add any thoughts you have to our review thread on the DZ.

As part of the review we are now consulting on a new Dignity charter for RCN members. The proposed charter and a short questionnaire are now up on the website - the closing date for comments is 26 February 2010.

The proposed new charter considers specifically the rights and responsibilities of RCN members and activists in relation to dignity and their membership of the RCN. It is also proposed that this will replace the current RCN Code of Conduct and will link to a new disciplinary policy which will outline the processes for sanctions if the charter is not adhered to.

Following our next Council meeting in January we'll be consulting with members on the proposed revisions to the Royal Charter and bye-laws. After the Christmas break I will be updating these pages with further developments, so please do visit again.


11 December 2009 update

The Governance Support Committee met on Friday to discuss phase two of the Legal and Governance Review - this is the part where we are proposing to amend the RCN Royal Charter and Bye-laws to more accurately represent the RCN as we know it today.

 The Governance Support Committee went through the charter and bye-laws to identify areas that may need updating. There are two important areas for consideration - the need to add in reference to the RCN being a trade union and the need to ensure the wider membership is reflected in both documents.

Our next step is to talk to board members about the proposed changes to the charter and bye-laws, this will be taking place over the next few weeks. For these meetings we have prepared a country and regional board presentation (PowerPoint 332KB).  

We have also added to our Question and Answer pages relating to the review and will update these as members raise further queries.

After our next Council meeting in January we'll be consulting with you on the proposed revisions to the Charter and Bye-laws. I will give a further update shortly - please check this page regularly.

Sandra James, Chair of Council, 3 December 2009 update

We had a very successful Council meeting last Thursday and Friday where we looked at the latest developments in our legal and governance review.

We discussed some of the detailed work that is taking place to finalise the setting up of the new Charitable Foundation. Meetings are taking place with our independent auditors (PWC), the Pensions Trust and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator amongst others - all essential to sort out the finer detail of the new set up. I'll keep you posted on key points emerging from the meetings in future updates.

We also talked about the latest discussions with the Charity Commission including the fact that the notice publicising the change will be in the press shortly.

On Friday afternoon, Council had a very useful development session around phase two of the review - this is the part where we are proposing to amend the RCN Royal Charter and Bye-laws to more accurately represent the RCN as we know it today.

Chris Cox, RCN Director of Legal Services, pointed out the very important fact that our Charter represents our legal contract with our members and so needs to accurately represent our service to them.

He referred to some archaic content in the current documents and spoke of the need to develop a Charter and Bye-laws which are future-proof, clearly define what we do and stand for, and more clearly reinforce how decisions are made.

Later on in the day we had a very interesting discussion on a number of key areas which potentially affect the redrafting of the Charter and Bye-laws. We considered specifically which sections may need to be amended in the light of:

Our aim is to make sure that our Charter and Bye-laws are fit for purpose and demonstrate good practice and we'll be talking to our board members about this in the next few weeks.

After our next Council meeting in January we'll be consulting with you on the proposed revisions to the Charter and Bye-laws.

I will give a further update following the Governance Support Committee meeting this Friday so please check back next week.

Sandra James, Chair of Council, 25 November 2009 update

Following our AGM last month I thought it would be helpful to start a regular column on these pages to update you on the latest steps in our legal and governance review.

For those of you new to this subject the review, in a nutshell, is about looking at the way the RCN is set up legally and how it is governed - to make sure we are fit for purpose to deliver high quality services.

We are already part way through the process - at the AGM members voted overwhelmingly to set up a charitable foundation, separate from the RCN. The RCN will carry out its business as before but will be able to apply for funding from the Foundation for some of its activities. The RCN's services to its members won't be affected nor our work on behalf of patients and nursing.

The Charity Commission has agreed in principle to the assets of the RCN to be divided between the new Foundation and the Royal College of Nursing. The agreement reflects the financial situation had there been two legal entities since 1977 when the trade union was set up - reflecting both the success of the trade union and its history as a Royal College.

There are still a few pieces of the jigsaw to be put in place though before the new structure can be set up. In the coming weeks the Charity Commission has asked us to put out a public notice about what will happen - an advert will appear in the press shortly.

In addition, the Privy Council still needs to agree the changes, voted on by our members at the recent AGM,to remove reference to the RCN being a charity and to make it clear that the RCN is a trade union.

We hope all this will happen in time to enable the Foundation to be up and running from 1 April 2010 - the beginning of the new financial year.

Next week, on Friday November 27 I will be leading a discussion at RCN Council on the next stage of our governance review.  We'll be looking at the other changes we need to make to our Royal Charter and bye-laws, at the 2010 AGM to make sure they accurately reflect the RCN as it is today. They have not been updated for many years and a lot has changed in that time.

In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone who has been involved with this work to date and all those who have put forward ideas, comments and views - it has all been tremendously helpful.

I do hope you will continue to read my column here - I will update it after our Council meeting next week on next steps.

Keep in touch with this column and other news on the RCN Legal and Governance review by subscribing to our regular email bulletin on the subject.

Read background information to the vote at our AGM and setting up the Foundation.