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RCN Executive team

RCN Executive Team

The Executive Team is responsible for leading the RCN

The General Secretary & Chief Executive runs the organisation with the help of the Executive Team. They get their authority from RCN Council. You can find out more about the Executive Team on this page.

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Professor Pat Cullen, General Secretary & Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016 and has been acting as General Secretary & Chief Executive since April 2021, and was appointed as interim General Secretary & Chief Executive in July 2021.

In a career that has spanned both hospital and community settings, Pat was Assistant Director of Mental Health Services and Professional Head of Nursing in a local health care trust before joining the Department of Health as Nursing Officer in 2001. During this time she was involved in the development of the commissioning of the first Medium Secure Unit in Northern Ireland and the first Department of Health standards for clinical supervision in mental health nursing.

Following this, Pat took on various roles in commissioning before being appointed Deputy Director of Nursing, Safety, Quality and Patient Experience in the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB). Pat led the development of the first safety and quality strategy in Northern Ireland and established the 10,000 Voices project which collected patient voices in order to inform commissioning decisions.

Pat was then seconded as Executive Director of Nursing and Allied Health Professions within the PHA and HSCB. Before joining the RCN, Pat, on behalf for the Department of Health, led the commissioning and performance management arrangements for unscheduled care services.

In 2024, the title of Honorary Professor of Practice was conferred on Pat by the Queen's University Belfast.

In addition to her extensive career experience, Pat is a registered psychotherapist.

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Professor Nicola Ranger, Chief Nursing Officer and Deputy Chief Executive

Professor Nicola Ranger joined the RCN in December 2022. She was previously Chief Nurse and Executive Director of Midwifery at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London. Before that, she held Chief Nurse posts at both Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.

She has also held a number of senior nursing roles at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. Earlier in her career, she worked at America’s George Washington University Hospital in Washington and at Mount Sinai Medical Centre in New York.
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Philip Ball, Chief of Staff

Philip joined the Royal College of Nursing in 2017 after working in public policy in Westminster and Brussels. He has over ten years of health policy communications experience.

In 2022, Philip joined the RCN's executive and leads on the organisation's communications with members, campaigns, marketing and data analysis, business developement, political advocacy and stakeholder relations. 


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Rita Devlin, Executive Director of RCN Northern Ireland

RGN, BSc Nursing Science, MSc Lifelong Learning

Rita has worked in a variety of clinical settings at ward sister level with experience in emergency departments and general medicine. She moved from clinical posts in 2001 to hold several corporate nursing posts within HSC trusts, with responsibility for the development and implementation of person-centred care, nurse development, service and quality improvement, and patient safety. She has a special interest in leadership, management, service improvement to improve patient experience, and human factors training.

Rita joined the RCN in 2009 as a Senior Professional Development Officer, During this time she facilitated multidisciplinary health care teams to: improve, reform and modernise practice; develop and redesign services; implement evidence into practice; and evaluate the effectiveness of change. She wrote and produced the Regulating Rita play, which is used to give nurses insight into Nursing and Midwifery Council hearings.

Rita was then promoted to the position of Associate Director of Nursing Policy and Practice, During this time, she spent a year as acting Deputy Director in Northern Ireland. She also supported RCN members through industrial action, including strike action, in 2019 and 2020 and at that time was Trade Union Side Secretary for the RCN.

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Joanne Galbraith-Marten, Executive Director of Legal, Employment and Member Relations

Jo is a solicitor and specialises in employment law. She qualified in 2003 and joined the RCN in 2010. 

Prior to joining the RCN, Jo worked in private practice and has only ever represented Claimants and Trade Unions. She has a particular interest in discrimination and equal pay claims. 

Jo was appointed a fee paid Employment Judge on 1 October 2021.
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Patricia Marquis, Executive Director of RCN England

Having qualified as a Registered Nurse in her home town of Blackpool and a brief spell working in the US, Patricia moved to Oxfordshire and worked as a specialist orthopaedic nurse for many years. Wanting to support her colleagues more, she got involved with the Royal College of Nursing as a workplace representative.

Developing this passion for fairness and promoting nursing she became a member of RCN staff over 20 years ago and, having held a number of roles, now leads the delivery of RCN services across England.

Patricia Mbasani, Chief People Officer

Patricia joins the RCN with many years of experience in large and medium-sized, complex public, education, and charity organisations.

She has increased efficiency and effectiveness through her leadership and ability to successfully champion EDI across several organisations, most recently at Royal Trinity Hospice as Director of HR & OD. There she championed an inclusive and empowering organisational culture with an ambitious and dynamic people plan and a sector leading EDI programme.

Director-level experience has involved shaping corporate strategy, talent development programmes and managing complex projects. Patricia was previously Director of HR at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and Head of HR at MS Society. Patricia is a fellow of the CIPD and has a postgraduate MSc in Public Service Management. 
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Colin Poolman, Executive Director of RCN Scotland

Colin has been Director of RCN Scotland since September 2021. A registered nurse for over 30 years, Colin has been a key member of the RCN Scotland team for many years, most recently as Associate Director for Pay, Terms and Conditions.

Colin has also worked across the UK and spent time working as an Associate Director in RCN Northern Ireland just before the pandemic as well as operationally leading the RCN UK Pay Programme supporting the RCN’s Fair Pay for Nursing campaign.

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Gush Uppal, Chief Financial Officer

Gush is a commercially focused finance director experienced in multiple business models. Prior to joining the RCN, Gush worked in the commercial sector across different organisations ranging from blue chip multi nationals to medium-sized private equity-backed businesses. This was followed by eight years working at Climate KIC, funding climate change related innovation before his last role as Interim Finance Director at Unite The Union.

Gush is a results-oriented professional and has significant experience in financial and performance management, strategic planning, governance, financial controls and managing risk, acquisitions and rationalization.

An effective communicator with strong interpersonal skills and a successful track record of working with key stake holders as well as managing finance and commercial teams, both local and international to drive growth and profitability improvement.

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Helen Whyley, Executive Director of RCN Wales

Helen Whyley is the Executive Director for the Royal College of Nursing in Wales.  She takes a portfolio of responsibilities which currently include executive support to a number of RCN Networks and Committees.  She previously Chaired the RCN Education and Learning Development Strategy Program Board, the RCN Staffing for Safe and Effective Care Program Board and the RCN Member Experience and Journey Strategy Board.

Helen previously worked in the office of the Welsh Government’s Chief Nursing Officer from 2011 to 2017 where her role as Nursing Officer included professional and policy advice on workforce development, nursing & midwifery education and regulation, and safeguarding.  She delivered on a number of key areas while working for the Welsh Government including policy adviser on the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016; a review of the Post Registration Career Framework for Nurses; the Aligning Skills Guidance & Portfolio and the PREVENT training programme.

Helen’s career with RCN Wales originally started in 1999 when she was appointed as an RCN Professional Officer.  Upon completion of her MA in Industrial Relations she undertook a secondment in 2006 to the RCN UK Employment Relations Department working on national recognition agreements and organising in the independent sector.  She returned to the RCN in 2017 as the Associate Director Employment Relations and was promoted to Executive Director for RCN Wales in February 2019.<

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Natalie Zara, Executive Director of Governance

Natalie is an experienced and qualified governance professional having spent over 12 years working in governance roles at a senior level.

Prior to joining the RCN in 2023, Natalie was Head of Planning, Strategy and Governance at the Bar Council for many years. There she worked closely with the Chair of the Bar and with the elected members of the Bar Council and was instrumental in implementing a plethora of changes designed to streamline and improve governance processes and systems.

Most recently Natalie occupied the role of Head of Executive and Member Services at Brent Council where she led Brent’s governance, elections, Leader’s office, Chief Executive’s office, civic and member services, and complaints and casework teams.