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Leading the way for nursing staff

Dr Denise Chaffer 2 Sep 2021 RCN President

Dr Denise Chaffer reflects on the first weeks as President and her commitment to supporting members.

I have been RCN President for two months and during that time I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of you at a range of meetings, and I look forward to meeting many more of you in coming weeks and months. 

However, since I took up the role, it has been a very difficult time for RCN members and the College. Much has happened and many of you have expressed concerns over senior level resignations, the investigation into the Chair of Council and most recently, the very serious issues raised leading to the decision to move RCN Congress to a fully virtual event.  

There is no greater priority for the College than the safety, security and wellbeing of its members and staff, which is why we have launched a new confidential help and support line for anyone who has been affected by the issues relating to the reports received.  If you have been affected, it is important that you are listened to and supported – please do find out more on how we are doing this on our website

As your President, my role is to ensure members are supported during this time, and to continue to promote the value of nursing with our partners, the public and stakeholders. I will use my time as President to shine a light on the work that you do across the whole range of nursing roles, specialisms and settings. 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring significant personal and professional challenges for us all. It’s important to acknowledge that many of our colleagues paid the ultimate price for their dedication to nursing and tragically lost their lives during the pandemic. 

Some of you are also dealing with the impact of long COVID and you must be supported by your employer. The RCN is committed to making sure this happens and that you are given the protection you need as you deliver health care services while COVID-19, flu and other respiratory viruses continue to circulate in the coming months.

I am focused on delivering your priorities for nursing – namely safe staffing and fair pay. This is the only way we can credibly address the current nursing workforce crisis.

Across the UK, our members continue to take part in our Summer of Action, hosting local and online events to raise awareness of how patient safety is at the heart of our campaign for fair pay – only with enough nursing staff will we be able to give patients the care they deserve. 

My thanks to all of you who have given your time to support these events and I hope those of you eligible to vote in consultations in England and Wales on the recent NHS pay award have done so – if not, please check your email and do so today.

I will also continue to champion equality, diversity and inclusion as RCN President and to bring this agenda to the heart of the RCN’s decision-making. One key action to advance this in the College is the design and roll out of a pioneering inclusive leadership and governance development programme for the Professional Nursing Committee (PNC).

The programme covers issues such as scrutiny of equality impact assessment, understanding human rights principles as well as strengthening the importance of inclusion to delivering better quality decision making on behalf of our members - and ultimately, supporting better outcomes for patients. This new programme aims to equip PNC members with the skills and knowledge to strengthen accountability and member leadership in this vital area of work.

My role as President is an international one too, and this week we welcomed the publication of the Global Strategic Directions on Nursing and Midwifery, which the RCN helped shape. This new five-year policy aims to strengthen and empower nurses and midwives across the world and sets out ways to ensure nursing leadership in global health policy.

Finally, I want to reaffirm my commitment to give all members a voice in the College. It is a privilege to represent our 465,000 RCN members and I look forward to working with you all in this role as we jointly find solutions for some of the challenges facing our profession. What has happened in recent weeks has been very challenging for us all. Resolving this will take some time but it is important we all come together to support anyone affected by this and also ensure the important work of the RCN continues while investigations progress.

Dr Denise Chaffer

Dr Denise Chaffer


Denise has been President of the RCN since July 2021 and is currently the Director of Safety and Learning for the NHS Resolution (formally known as NHSLA).

Page last updated - 02/09/2021