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Health Insight August 2002: More problems at the Royal College of Nursing

  The chairman of the council of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Bottrill, resigned recently in a most bizarre fashion. While chairing a meeting of the council several members failed to return after a coffee break. Commenting on their absence Mrs Bottrill used the phrase ‘ten little niggers’, after the Agatha Christie novel in which a group of people are picked off one by one. This was deemed to be racially unacceptable by some members of the council. What was equally surprising was that the reason for Mrs Bottrill’s resignation was shrouded in secrecy to members of the RCN, until a regional evening paper ran the story. It has angered many nurses who are unhappy with the culture of secrecy that has grown up at the college. Peggy Pryer, an RCN member for almost thirty years, said, ‘We are in such a state and it is extremely saddening. It is impossible to find anything out. We have asked lots of questions but we aren’t being told anything.’ A spokesman for the RCN admitted that the union was going through some uncomfortable changes, but denied that growing dissent was being ignored or suppressed.

At the centre of the storm is Beverley Malone, an American academic appointed to revolutionise the union last year. Her popularity has been eroded by members opposed to the appointment of a non-NHS outsider, and a succession of embarrassments. A new website, set up by nurses for each other, shows how highly passions are running. ‘Unless the council and the rest of the administration get their heads out of the sand and become transparent in their dealings, any shred of credibility left will go out of the window,’ one nurse wrote.

Source: The Times 17th August

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