Debate: RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary role

That this meeting of Congress directs RCN Council to instigate a review of the joint Chief Executive & General Secretary role with a view to introducing an elected General Secretary.

The question of an elected General Secretary was raised at the RCN Extraordinary General Meeting in September last year, which was called in response to the RCN’s communication of the 2018 NHS Pay Deal.


This resolution was not passed.

The General Secretary of most trades unions are required by law to be directly elected by all members. 

This does not apply to the RCN or the other 12 Special Register Bodies which take part in collective bargaining on behalf of their members alongside other activities under the Industrial Relations Act 1971 unless they are voting members of the Trade Union Executive (our Council).

Of those 13 special register bodies all but the BMA appoint their General Secretary. 

The Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN is the principal official and staff member of the organisation. The position holder must be a registered nurse and is appointed by RCN Council. They are not a member of RCN Council. It is the President who is the directly elected voice of the membership (as required under the trade union legislation) and an ex-officio voting member of Council. 
The BMA also has an appointed Chief Executive. However it is the Chair of Council undertakes the role of General Secretary (although that title is not used). The BMA Chair of Council is not however directly elected by the membership but from within Council.

As well as considering an elected General Secretary, the review would also need to consider the subsequent organisational and governance impacts which may follow. 

These questions would include:  

  • Would an appointed Chief Executive be needed alongside the elected General Secretary
  • Would the elected General Secretary be an employee
  • Would the General Secretary be a voting member of RCN Council
  • What would the relationship between the two roles and the extent to which each has the right to take decisions
  • How would the existing positions of Chair of Council, and Chair of the Trade Union Committees be affected? 

Main Hall
ACC Liverpool
Kings Dock
Liverpool Waterfront
L3 4FP

21 May 2019 12:45 - 13:45

Main Hall, ACC Liverpool , Kings Dock , Liverpool Waterfront , Liverpool , L3 4FP

Page last updated - 19/10/2019