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  • Writer's pictureWe Are Global Nurses

Why the RCN needs to re-join the ICN - Linda Bailey

Other more eminent friends and colleagues have already set out very clear reasons why we need to be part of the global nursing family and I will not repeat those, other than to say we are stronger when we are united. And at the moment the UK not a part of the family.

One of the arguments against re-joining is the financial argument, and as a former treasurer of the RCN I do have some knowledge of this area.

ICN comprises the lead national nursing organisation from each of the constituent countries, currently 130 countries from Andorra to Zimbabwe. Each country pays a subscription to the ICN based on the number of nurses in that national organisation.

Some countries such as the UK have a single organisation, such as the RCN, which represents the majority of qualified nurses currently working in the country. At the time we left ICN we had well over 400,000 members and were paying about £615,000 to ICN. We were one of the top two contributors to the ICN. But in context this is about £1.50 per member per year, or less than half a cup of your favourite coffee chain cappuccino.

On the other hand, the American Nurses Association has only 164,000 members in a country where there are about 3.5 million nurses. So the ANA pays considerably less than the RCN for membership and always has. However since the RCN left the family, ICN has changed its’ funding structure, so while if we re-joined, we would still be one of the largest contributors, and still paying more than the USA nurses, we would not be paying the amount we were previously paying.

To people saying this is unfair, remember that some of the countries in the ICN are amongst the poorest in the world and of course the nurses there are also amongst the lowest paid of the professionals in that country. I worked in South Africa in the 1980s and still have a copy of my final salary slip as a qualified nurse – the grand total of 290 Rand, or £13.50 from September 1985. I returned to the UK and immediately got work as a chambermaid at a run down hotel in London for the princessly sum of £75 per week, live in! Those disparities still exist between countries, so yes I do think it fair that not all countries pay the same to ICN but all have the same say in the work done. We have a responsibility to be part of a global nursing movement, recognising that we are not all resourced in the same way.

ICN is an important organisation representing nurses on the world stage. They work with the specialised agencies of the United Nations system, particularly with the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organisation and the World Bank, and this work is important for nurses everywhere.

I believe it was Helen Keller who said “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.

Linda Bailey is a Retired Consultant in Public Health, Nurse and Former RCN Council Member for London and RCN Treasurer

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