Royal College of Nursing launches 'wide-ranging' review of its culture

Royal College of Nursing launches ‘wide-ranging’ review of its culture amid claims of sexual harassment, staff walkouts and financial mismanagement

  • The RCN represents 465,000 registered nurses and other healthcare workers 
  • The union has paid out £1.3million in payouts to departing staff in last five years 
  • It has appointed a leading barrister to ‘thoroughly scrutinise’ the organisation 

The Royal College of Nursing has launched a ‘wide-ranging’ review of its culture amid claims of sexual harassment, staff walkouts and financial mismanagement.

It comes after the chairman of its board, a bondage expert, was suspended over allegations he was ‘hostile’ to women and the annual conference was moved online over fears for staff safety.

The trade union this week set up a confidential 24-hour helpline for members who have suffered harassment. 

It has now appointed leading barrister Bruce Carr QC to ‘thoroughly scrutinise’ the organisation as it seeks to ‘deliver fundamental change’.

A Daily Mail investigation can reveal that the RCN has paid out £1.3million in controversial payouts to departing staff in the past five years.

It has also emerged that David Dawes, 53, the suspended chairman, is a failed businessman. All five of his enterprises shut down, with debts totalling £165,000

Amid the departures, a mysterious blueprint to sow chaos across the union and force out key figures, including the £200,000-a-year CEO, surfaced on the internet last year – and every prediction came true.

It has also emerged that David Dawes, 53, the suspended chairman, is a failed businessman. All five of his enterprises shut down, with debts totalling £165,000.

Previously he was kicked off the board for defaulting on his £15-a-month subscription three times in a row. He was elected as chairman last year.

The RCN represents 465,000 registered nurses and other healthcare workers. It took the unprecedented decision to move its Liverpool conference online this month to ‘protect all attendees’.

The decision followed independent legal advice on ‘serious allegations of sexual harassment’, but the Mail understands the action is not linked to the investigation into Mr Dawes.

Last year alone, the trade union spent £361,540 on controversial ‘compensation for loss of office’ payouts, or golden goodbyes

Last year alone, the trade union spent £361,540 on controversial ‘compensation for loss of office’ payouts, or golden goodbyes. Comparable unions, such as the British Medical Association, have made no such payments in the same period.

The Mail understands the payouts were accompanied with non-disclosure agreements, preventing former employees mentioning even the existence of a settlements. Often those departing are subject to internal investigations.

It is a year since the leak of a blueprint outlining how to ‘marginalise’ and force out chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair, 60, who did indeed step down in July following a period of ill health. The group behind the document has not been found.

Separately, Mr Dawes was suspended over allegations he was ‘hostile’ to women and dismissive of members’ concerns at a staff meeting shortly after Dame Donna stepped down. They also highlighted sexually ‘inappropriate’ tweets he made ten years ago.

The father of one is openly polyamorous, meaning he believes in having romantic relationships with more than one person at a time. He has given a talk on ‘rope bondage’ at a conference for bisexual people.

Mr Dawes has blamed his ‘enemies’ for his suspension. ‘I do believe that staff loyal to Dame Donna orchestrated the complaints against me as a way of damaging council and the entire organisation,’ he said. He expects to be cleared this month.

The university lecturer, who was a staff nurse for only one month, joined the union in the 1990s, and has served on its unpaid, elected board in every decade since.

Mr Dawes boasts he is a successful company director of ‘social innovation start-ups’ in the health sector, but all five businesses he started have shut down, despite receiving £100,000 in loans and grants.

Dame Donna declined to comment. An RCN spokesman said its new general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen was ‘committed to tackling any behaviours that fall short of members’ expectations’.

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