23. Funding international work
Matter for discussion submitted by the RCN Lothian Branch
That RCN Congress considers if the RCN can continue funding its international work given the domestic economic situation
Submitted by: Lothian Branch
Council lead and committee assigned: No Council member assigned, International Committee
Committee decision: Existing work addresses this issue
Members involved: None
Final summary update at May 2012
This item saw members discuss the importance of the RCN’s international work and its commitment to promoting the development of nursing internationally.
This was a matter for discussion and therefore did not generate any specific action points to take forward.
Geoff Earl from the Lothian Branch acknowledged the current difficult economic times but asked Congress delegates to consider the importance of the RCN’s international work – enshrined in the Royal Charter.
Geoff advised that the RCN’s international work currently accounts for 1.5 per cent of the RCN’s overall budget – with half of this funding being spent on the RCN’s membership of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). He emphasised the importance of this work and stressed that the RCN should stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with nurses across the world, developing and influencing international policy.
Members spoke in support of the RCN’s international work. ICN representative Gill Barber said that the cost of ICN membership was the equivalent of one supermarket sandwich per member per year. She said that the RCN was highly respected and valued on the international stage and the global lobbying work was invaluable. Greg Usrey said that the RCN, as the largest nursing organisation in the world, had a moral obligation to support its international nursing colleagues.
Maura Buchanan said the RCN cannot get isolated from the rest of the world as she stressed the RCN’s influence on the international stage. She said that it was however important that the RCN’s essential work was communicated effectively.
Linda Bailey asked if the RCN should reconsider membership of the ICN if fees cannot be negotiated, however, she added, the RCN could still continue its international work in other ways.
At the end of the debate RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter told delegates that the RCN’s annual fees for ICN membership were £575,000. Dr Carter said these fees were unaffordable and that the RCN had paid the ICN £400,000. The RCN is currently in negotiation about the fees and updates will be made available on the RCN website.
The UK’s economy and public services are increasingly being influenced by legislation or action at a European level or by global institutions – as witnessed by the current economic downturn – and much of the health and safety, employment, and environmental legislation implemented in the UK now stems from the European Union.
When it comes to the UK health economy, the international migration of health professionals and populations has also helped to shape health service provision over many years. What’s more, since communicable diseases do not respect borders, efforts to tackle H1N1 and other viruses now require close coordination through international bodies such as the World Health Organization.
Nursing is a global profession and the RCN provides advice to members seeking to work or volunteer outside the UK, and to nurses from abroad wishing to register and work here. The RCN also holds annual volunteering events with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), Médecins sans Frontiéres (MSF), and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), and works with a number of non-governmental organisations - such as the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) - to raise awareness about opportunities for nursing to contribute to health in the developing world.
The RCN also works with a range of European and international alliances, the European Commission, and members of the European Parliament, to shape EU agreements on issues that impact on nursing and health. These include needlestick injuries, manual handling, international recruitment, patients’ access to cross border care, and mutual recognition of nursing qualifications.
Through these alliances the RCN is part of a network of nursing and midwifery associations across the world that exchange good practice and campaign jointly to address global issues such as maternal mortality, gender equality and health worker shortages.
With guidance from its recently established International Committee, the RCN is also developing new partnership projects with sister nursing associations to further support achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (United Nations, 2011).
The RCN regularly reviews its priorities to ensure it allocates its resources wisely. Currently it assigns around 1.5% (£880,000) of its £57.2 million expenditure budget to its European and international work. Based on a membership of 400,000, this means each RCN member pays on average £2.20 a year towards this activity.
Subscriptions to the International Council of Nurses (ICN) account for over half the RCN’s international expenditure and the RCN has been in discussions with ICN about its fees, which are based on membership size and country gross domestic product (GDP) figures and are also influenced by exchange rate fluctuations. The second largest member of ICN, the RCN initially approached the ICN in 2010 to reduce its annual payments, pending negotiations on a reform of the fee structure.
The RCN’s overall commitment to promoting the development of nursing internationally is enshrined in its Royal Charter and was reaffirmed in 2010 through RCN Council’s agreement of a clear international purpose and guiding principles. This has led to a greater focus on influencing EU policies, involvement in additional international development work, and the use of international evidence for developing UK policy and practice.
References and further reading
Royal College of Nursing (2010) RCN International: purpose and principles, London: RCN. Available at: http://www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/word_doc/0017/347102/10.51_International_Report_to_July_Council_JC.doc (Accessed 04/02/11) (Web)
Royal College of Nursing (2011) Key international issues, London: RCN. Available at: http://www.rcn.org.uk/nursing/international (Accessed 04/02/11) (Web)
United Nations (2011) We can end poverty: 2015 Millennium Development Goals, New York: UN. Available at: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/index.shtml (Accessed 04/02/11) (Web)