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RCN council chairs resign amid election scandal



Royal College of Nursing council chair Dee Sissons and council vice chair Richard Jones have resigned, whilst nurses come out in support of candidates disqualified during a growing RCN election scandal.

The two resignations came within days of one another, with Ms Simmons announcing that she was leaving the role last Friday and the RCN revealing that Mr Jones was stepping down on Monday.

Ms Simmons did not explain why she left her role after just eight months in post, although the RCN said that Mr Jones stepped down ‘for health reasons’.

In a statement released on Friday, Ms Simmons said that she felt ‘great regret’ and will continue in her East Midlands seat on the council. The RCN also confirmed that Mr Jones would continue as council member for Wales after a short break.

Ms Simmons continued: ‘I have always maintained a high standard of commitment and dignity in my work and want to thank everyone who has supported me in this role, which has been rewarding and challenging in equal measure.

‘My passion for the nursing profession, and desire to remain a champion for the workforce, remain unchanged.’

Ms Sissons was due to serve a two-year term after becoming chair of the RCN Council on 1 January 2020.

The resignation comes after nurses questioned on Twitter whether the disqualified candidates in the union’s elections for a president and deputy president had committed any wrongdoing, with some calling on the RCN to be more transparent about the alleged rule breaking.  

The RCN has not named the disqualified candidates but former RCN Congress chair Stuart McKenzie revealed he had been excluded from the election via Twitter on Friday, suggesting his disqualification was not fair:   

Nurses on the social media platform seemed to agree with him, saying the decision to disqualify him for inappropriately using RCN resources was ‘unjustified’ or ‘farcical’.   

The RCN said last week it had suspended its president and deputy president elections because two candidates had been disqualified following complaints they had broken the College’s election rules.

It alleged the candidates had promoted their campaigns at virtual meetings of some RCN branches.  

In a frequently asked questions list, the RCN states that candidates can advise members they are standing for election at RCN events, but cannot use that platform to promote their campaign.  

Nursing in Practice asked the RCN the reason for Ms Sissons’ resignation but the union declined to comment.

Although, a spokesperson, in response to the presidential election criticisms, said: ‘We have continued to share information with our members throughout the process, in a way that is timely and transparent.’

RCN President Anne Marie Rafferty said: ‘I want to reassure you that although we find ourselves in uncharted waters, RCN Council is united in the aim of swiftly resolving this process and returning to the important issues at hand.’

Voting will now take place from within Council to elect a new chair.

The RCN has said more details around a new presidential election timeline will be shared with members on Thursday following an emergency meeting.