Britain’s nursing union’s toxic culture of sexual harassment was today laid bare by a damning internal report.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last year launched a probe into its internal culture following a string of accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.
The findings, released today, ruled that women, especially junior staff, are at risk of ‘alcohol and power-related exploitation’.
The 77-page report revealed that student nurses have been groped by senior union officials.
It also highlighted a misogynistic environment in higher levels of union leadership, with loud and abrasive male voices dominating female colleagues.
There were also claims of bullying and discrimination, with most resignations from the college leadership being among women from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The independent investigation into the RCN’s culture, produced by Bruce Carr KC, comes just days after the union launched the biggest industrial action ballot in its history.
Union bosses are currently asking for public support as they seek a 17 per cent pay rise for nurses in the NHS.
The Royal College of Nursing has been rocked after a damming probe highlighted instances of bullying, misogyny and inappropriate sexual behaviour
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen has apologised on behalf of the union in the wake of the report
The Guardian, which has seen a copy of the report, claimed that the eminent barrister reported evidence supporting the idea that senior union figures had sought to take sexual advantage of junior colleagues.
Events at the RCN’s annual congress, where its 400,000-plus members from across the UK gather to vote on the union’s polices, faced particular criticism.
Large amounts of alcohol are consumed at events held as part of the conference.
Only way to stop nurses striking is to stump up an extra ‘£1.4BILLION’: Union pushing for first mass walk-out in its 106-year history wants 17 PER CENT pay rise for its 300,000 members
Britain’s nursing union is demanding No10 gives its members an extra £1.4billion or they’ll go on strike.
The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) today sent its 300,000 members a ballot, urging them to vote for industrial action for the first time in its 106-year history, to force the Government to up its offer.
If nurses take to the picket line, it would be the first ever UK-wide walk-out and could lead to thousands of operations and procedures being cancelled.
Union bosses are demanding nurses get a salary uplift of at least five per cent above inflation, which currently sits at 12.3 per cent.
This would grant the average nurse, who earns roughly £35,600 each year according to the Government, an extra £6,150.
In comparison, the Government has offered NHS nurses a salary rise of roughly four per cent, giving the average nurse an extra £1,400.
But to meet the RCN’s demand, the Government would have to stump up, in theory, an extra £4,750 per nurse, a colossal £1.4billion in total.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Ministers must be wary of nodding through each and every pay demand.
‘NHS nurses do an admirable job, but inflation-busting pay hikes would ultimately have to be taken from struggling taxpayers or siphoned off patient services.
‘Government urgently needs to get a grip on budgets and set out more sensible offers.’
Speaking today, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said giving nurses a ‘decent wage’ was the only way to stop them fleeing the NHS.
She added it would help plug thousands of vacancies across the health service.
Concerns over its congress were so high while the review was underway that last year’s event was held virtually due to ‘serious allegations of sexual harassment’ by some members.
The probe highlights that some male members attendees of the event, including senior figures, came with an ‘expectation’ of sexual activity.
This included a culture in which the terms ‘congress-wife/husband’ were in common usage and reflected the prevalence of extramarital sexual relationships, the review said.
One senior male figure told the review that female members would ‘offer it to you on a plate’.
The review also includes testimony of how student nurses would receive late night calls from male council members, and claims that it was an ‘open secret’ that junior colleagues left alone with them would be groped.
The review was commissioned by union general secretary Pat Cullen in September last year, shortly after she took on the job.
Her appointment came after a series of internal disputes within the college as well as several high-profile resignations and suspensions, including that of former chair of council and bondage expert Dave Dawes.
Mr Dawes, a rope bondage expert who has led workshops on techniques, was suspended following a series of complaints about his conduct.
The Carr review, which examined events from 2018 onwards, interviewed 60 members of the college both past and present.
In the report itself, the barrister called on those cited in the report, who are not named, to consider their future in the RCN.
The Carr review also labeled the RCN’s controversy-mired and male-dominated ruling body, called the council, as ‘not fit for purpose’.
It said women and ethnic minorities on the council endure a ‘hostile environment at least from the perspective of those who felt they had to leave’.
Despite 90 per cent of nurses in the UK being women, RCN Council is seen as a ‘misogynistic environment’ in which ‘loud abrasive male voices’ dominate.
Over half of the RCN’s current council members are men.
In a statement, Ms Cullen said she apologised on behalf of the college for past poor behaviour by members.
‘Where behaviours have fallen short in the past, I apologise today on behalf of the entire RCN,’ she said.
‘I will hold this report close as I redouble efforts to overhaul this College and give members the strong, professional and genuinely representative organisation they deserve.
‘New safeguarding measures and protocols have been introduced and we are modernising our governance and rethinking our approach to equality and inclusivity.’
She added that she did want to see the RCN ‘dragged through mud’ but said no individual is beyond reproach.
‘Whatever role they held previously or even today, those implicated in the report, and following appropriate investigation, will face internal and regulatory consequences,’ she said.
‘This review does not attach names to the incidents described but I am determined that the forthcoming investigations give complainants and victims the justice they deserve and serve as definitive proof of our commitment to change.’
In the wake of the report, Professor Rod Thomson the RCN council member for the West Midlands announced he would resign from his position.
On Twitter he said this was in ‘to enable a change in the composition of Council and to affect a positive change in its gender and ethnic balance’ and ‘not as a result of any association with the behaviour in the Carr Report’.
The RCN is currently undertaking an industrial action vote, last week sending out ballots its 300,000 members on if they would support a strike over pay.
The 106-year-old union is urging nurses to vote in favour of the ‘once in a generation’ ballot after the Government refused to meet its pay demands — warning ‘enough is enough’. It could see thousands of operations and appointments cancelled.
It is demanding nurses receive a salary uplift of at least five per cent above inflation, which currently sits as 12.3 per cent.
Under the union’s proposed figure, the average nurse, who earns roughly £35,600 each year, would get an extra £6,150.
The Government has offered to increase pay by £1,400, a rise of around four per cent.
But the RCN argues this effectively amounts to a pay cut due to inflation.