Bullying, misogyny and sex culture at the Royal College of Nursing, survey finds | Feeding with milk

A damning investigation into the Royal College of Nursing, the world’s largest nurses’ union, has revealed bullying, misogyny and a sexual culture where women are at risk of being “exploited by alcohol and power”.

A 77-page internal report by Bruce Carr KC, leaked to the Guardian, reveals how the RCN’s senior leadership has been ‘riddled with divisions, dysfunction and mistrust’ and condemns the male-dominated governing body, known as the advice, such as “not fit for purpose”.

Serious concerns are also being raised about the RCN’s annual conference, known as Congress, where Carr says an “inappropriate sexual culture” warrants further urgent investigation “to determine the extent to which [it] has in fact resulted in the exploitation of vulnerable people”.

The prominent lawyer reports that there is evidence to support the “impression” that older people sought to sexually take advantage of their subordinates and “engaged in unwanted sexual behavior”.

He calls on those whose behavior is cited in the report, which he does not name, to consider their positions in light of testimonies of groping, humiliation by female staff and a refusal by managers to consider the letters of the women’s resignation from the board, in which the complaints ranged from unprofessional behavior to “gaslighting and microaggressions.”

In a statement to The Guardian, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen, who commissioned the review after he was brought in last year to clean up the union and professional body, apologized for his past conduct and warned those involved that there would be consequences.

She said: “Where behaviors have failed in the past, I apologize today on behalf of the entire RCN. I don’t want to see this proud body dragged through the mud, but my commitment to leaving no stone unturned is even greater. No individual is beyond reproach. Whatever role they held before or even today, those implicated in the report – after proper investigation – will face internal and regulatory consequences.

Carr’s Independent Review of Culture of the Royal College of Nursing is highly critical across the board, concluding “that, at least until very recently, the RCN was a dysfunctional organisation”.

Although 90 percent of MRC members are women, the council is seen as “a misogynistic environment in which loud, abrasive male voices dominate the environment to the detriment of women,” Carr reports.

Women and ethnic minorities on the board would face a ‘hostile environment, at least from the point of view of those who felt they should leave’, with four of the five resignations in the past three years being women, including three from a black, Asian or minority ethnicity, an issue that Carrs says also merits separate investigation. There is one council member from the BAME community, although the group represents 45% of RCN membership.

Highlighting the testimony of the allegedly toxic and misogynistic environment, Carr notes that “the consistency of the evidence regarding the bullying of female staff members and the reasons cited for board resignations strongly supports the fact that such a culture does indeed exist. within the council itself. ”.

The behavior of council members and others at the convention is under particular scrutiny, with a significant number of male attendees having an “expectation” of “sexual activity”.

Carr, who has previously led government reviews in labor disputes, warns that “the lines between consensual and potentially exploitative sexual activity are likely to blur if they haven’t already.”

It details testimony of how female nursing students received late night calls from male board members, as well as a claim that it was an “open secret” that those left alone with one would be ” groped” and that there is, in his own words, a “sex culture in congress…where the risk of exploitation is significant”.

The Carr Inquiry was ordered last September by Cullen after years of internal turmoil and strife. Last year’s convention was forced online after accusations of sexual harassment. The investigation focused on events from 2018 to the present day.

After 60 interviews with former and current members and employees totaling 120 hours, Carr reports a “shady culture.” He brings back :

  • That it is “clear that Congress is viewed by many as an opportunity to engage in sexual activity, which will carry substantial risk of a line being crossed into becoming exploitative…More so where there is has an imbalance of power between the individuals involved and all the more so when large quantities of alcohol are consumed”.

  • There is a “culture in which ‘congress wife’ (or husband) is a commonly used term and reflects a prevalence of extramarital sex”, which encourages others to expect to “have the opportunity [to] adopt similar behavior.

  • An elected official informed him that people’s “moral compass” would fall during the conference. The individual says he was “approached in a certain way by women, for a few years, and basically – how to say – offer it to you in a dish, if you want: it’s there for you, because they perceive you as having power”.

  • A board member told Carr that upon joining the corps they were told that “students really have to be on their toes and are quite vulnerable and I can see what they meant by that.” A second said there was “abuse, grooming, prey” in an “alcoholic sexualized culture”.

  • Outside of the conference, Carr says he has also heard allegations of sexual harassment in the RCN and that “they support to some extent the impression that there is a culture that some older people seek to take advantage of their subordinates and engage in unwanted sexual behavior”.

The release of the report comes as the MRC, for the first time in its 106-year history, votes with 300,000 of its members on the strike and recommends that they vote in favour.

The proposed industrial action is a protest against the government’s decision in July to give most NHS workers a 5 per cent pay rise, which ministers say will lead to frontline staff receiving a raise salary of at least £1,400. The MRC says nurses should get a 5% raise above inflation – which is currently at 10.1%.

Cullen, whose interim term as general secretary was extended for a year in April, said additional “safeguards and protocols” have now been put in place and she is proud to lead members towards a ” historic strike vote”.

She said: “This review does not attach names to the incidents described, but I am determined that future investigations will give complainants and victims the justice they deserve and serve as definitive proof of our commitment to change. Everyone who has shared difficult personal experiences, of any kind, have my personal appreciation and support again today.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the profession’s regulator, said: ‘Today’s RCN culture report details some very serious findings.

“Our Code and Standards define the high standard of conduct we expect of everyone on our register, regardless of position or seniority. We are contacting Bruce Carr KC directly and will carefully review his report to understand if we may need to take regulatory action.

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