That this meeting of Congress debates whether the RCN would be more influential for nursing and health globally if we re-joined the International Council of Nurses (ICN).
ICN is a federation of 133 nursing organisations that represent 20 million nurses worldwide. ICN is operated by nurses and works to ensure quality nursing care for all, sound health policies globally, the advancement of nursing knowledge, the presence worldwide of a respected nursing profession and a competent and satisfied nursing workforce. The RCN left ICN when the decision to continue in membership was put to a vote at the 2013 Annual General Meeting.
The decision was made due to concerns about ICN including their strategy, operational effectiveness and membership model. In 2013, the full cost of membership subscription for the RCN was £614,470, based on the size of RCN membership. At January 2013, the membership was 416,077 members. The vote in favour of leaving passed at 91.7%.
Since 2013, ICN has not formally reported on changes to membership model, strategy or operational effectiveness. Global focus on how nursing can impact health has increased since 2013. In 2016, 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by world leaders at a UN summit. Goal number 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages” can be directly influenced by nurses. In the words of Director General of the World Health Organisation, “Nurses are essential to increasing access to quality and affordable healthcare around the world”.
Nursing Now is a campaign which was launched in 2018 to raise the profile of nursing globally, make nursing more central to health policy and ensure that nurses can use their skills, education and training to their full capacity. Since the RCN left ICN in 2013 the global landscape has significantly changed. As the UK begins Brexit, issues that affect UK nurses such as pay and conditions, the image and status of nursing, recruitment and retention, attacks on health workers and many others are replicated across the globe. The RCN currently has membership of a number of other international alliances.
Addressing these issues demands global solidarity and the strength of a global response from the nursing community. In October 2017 a group of 100 influential RCN members from a campaign group called “We Are Global Nurses” signed a letter to the Chair of RCN Council calling for the RCN to re-join ICN. It is an appropriate time to debate if the organisation would be politically and professionally more influential for nurses and nursing in the UK, for nurses and nursing globally and for nursing’s influence on world health as part of the ICN.