The RCN is a membership organisation of more than 450,000 registered nurses, midwives, nursing support workers and nursing students. We are both a professional body, carrying out work on nursing standards, education and practice, and a trade union.

Our members work in a range of health care specialties and settings in the NHS and independent sectors. We also have members based overseas, and members who are retired. Around 35,000 nursing students are members. 

We are governed by an elected Council of 17 members, chaired by Dave Dawes, which delegates the running and management of the organisation to our acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Pat Cullen. Our President, Denise Chaffer, is a member of RCN Council.

We are a Royal Charter body registered with the Privy Council and, because trade unionism is not our sole activity, we are on a special register of trade unions which means our rules differ slightly to other trade unions. 

We represent

We represent the professional interests of nursing staff working in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

We are on the NHS Staff Council, which negotiates pay, terms and conditions for NHS staff. We can also bargain for pay, terms and conditions with independent sector organisations. We are represented in social partnership arrangements in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Our stewards, safety reps and learning reps represent members across the UK and are supported and supervised by employment relations officers.

We support

We offer our members free, confidential advice and support on employment matters, career development, immigration, welfare and more.

We support and protect the diversity of the nursing profession by actively promoting inclusion. Our Diversity Champions programme is designed to give members the skills to make sure their organisations are inclusive. We provide accredited reps with the tools to challenge discrimination in the workplace.

We influence

We lobby governments and other bodies across the UK to develop, influence and implement policy that improves the quality of patient care. 

Through our campaigns, we encourage health care officials and elected representatives to recognise the importance of nurses, nursing support workers and nursing students in improving outcomes for patients.

We provide expert advice to parliamentarians on developing healthcare policies through legislation, select committees, all-party parliamentary groups and parliamentary briefings, and attend all of the major UK party conferences. We have no ties to any political party and we take pride in our political independence.

We develop

We promote and engage in nursing research, recognising that high quality nursing research has the power to transform patient care.

We have one of the largest specialist nursing libraries in Europe with access to over 64,000 books, 1,100 ejournals, 1,500 e-books and key nursing databases.

We maintain

We strive to be a sustainable, member-led organisation with the capacity to deliver our mission effectively, efficiently and in accordance with our values and core objectives.

Join the RCN

Are you ready to join the world’s largest nursing union and professional body? We represent your interests and campaign on issues that matter to you. Be part of our community of close to half a million nurses, midwives, health care assistants (HCAs), assistant practitioners (APs), nursing associates (NAs), trainee nursing associates (TNAs) and nursing students.

Join today