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RCN Review of Membership Categories

Launch date: 22 May 2019 17:30
Closing date: 31 Jul 2019 23:30


The RCN wants to find out your views as part of a review of our membership categories and subscription plans.

The aim is to make our arrangements fit for the future and make sure they reflect the changing entry routes into nursing across the UK, support equality and inclusion, and ensure long-term financial sustainability.

Council will use your views and ideas to build a vision of what the future membership of the RCN should be and propose changes to our current membership categories and subscription plans.

The challenges

  • There are many new and emerging routes into nursing.
  • New nursing roles are being introduced in England, including registered nursing associates, nursing associate apprentices and pre-registration apprenticeships. The RCN is also piloting a cadet scheme in Wales.
  • Some health practitioner members working in the independent sector are registered by the Scottish Health Council and the Social Care Council in Northern Ireland. In Wales registration of domiciliary care workers by Social Care Wales becomes mandatory from April 2020.
  • New Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) requirements for revalidation mean that registered nurses who are retired are no longer able to remain on the NMC register.
  • There are declining numbers of registered nurses meaning declining income to the College.
  • There are growing numbers of health care support workers not supervised by a nurse. How would we support them if they were able to become members of the RCN?
  • Many health care support workers do not know they can join the RCN and do not recognise the ‘health practitioner’ category of membership as being for them.
  • The current definitions of membership and subscription plans do not reflect the new structure of the profession or the changing working patterns of our members and do not meet their needs.
  • Our governance arrangements are directly related to our membership categories and payment plans. New roles will not be represented on our governance committees.
  • Only registered nurses are eligible for key offices in the College.

We've identified a number of possible solutions and want your views:

  • We have a single category of membership.
  • We develop a structure which is flexible and can accommodate differences across the UK and future changes to the roles and routes into the profession.
  • We consider introducing subscription plans which relate to a members’ income.
  • We welcome all registered nurses, registered nursing associates and members of the nursing team reporting to a registered nurse into membership, including cadets.
  • We consider introducing a new affiliate membership for all those who provide aspects of nursing or personal care as part of a multi-disciplinary team but do not report directly to a nurse.
  • We develop a clear strategy to ensure all our members have the standards of education, knowledge, skills and competencies they need to deliver safe and effective care.
  • We generate new sources of income to sustain the growth of the organisation.
  • We set out the qualifications, skills and experience members need to stand for elected governance roles in our policies and procedures –rather than align our governance arrangements to our membership categories.
  • We do not link our election arrangements and voting rights to our subscriptions plans.
  • We ensure that all roles are represented on our governance committees.

Key issues

Demographic changes: Growing demand for nursing care and changes in the way it is delivered mean the nursing team has changed too.

The nursing landscape is becoming increasingly complex: There are no longer standard job titles or clear-cut distinction between nursing roles. All this makes it harder to apply our current membership categories and to resolve practical questions of whether individuals are eligible to join the RCN and on which payment plan. For example, in England we now have trainee nursing associates in the nursing support worker category paying £98 a year where nurse apprentices are in the student category paying £10 a year. 

Workforce changes: The number of registered nurses is falling. There are tends of thousands of nursing vacancies across the UK. Meanwhile, the number of registered nursing associates in England is set to increase over the next few years, health care support worker numbers are increasing and the working pattern of members is changing. There are limits as to how far our current model can stretch if we are to continue to provide the standard of support and services we do today.


  1. Do you recognise the challenges above? If so how do they affect you?
  2. Which of the possible solutions above would you support?
  3. Are there any you wouldn't support?
  4. Do you see other solutions to the challenges we face?

You can read the full consultation document here.


Page last updated - 18/06/2019