This website is intended for healthcare professionals


RCN chief steps down to stand for Parliament

The head of the Royal College of Nursing has stepped down to run for Sinn Féin in the UK general election, announcing that it is the ‘right time for me to step forward into the political arena’

Professor Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has decided to step down from her post to stand for Parliament in Fermanagh & South Tyrone in the Westminster election in July.

She informed the RCN that her name will go forward to a Sinn Féin selection convention in the constituency this week.

Ms Cullen said that it was an ‘honour’ for her to serve in the RCN and provide leadership to thousands of hardworking nurses and healthcare staff. ‘After much consideration, I have decided that now is the right time for me to step forward into the political arena to champion the issues and opportunities for the community I love, and that is what I am fully determined to do.’

More on this topic:

Ms Cullen grew up in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and qualified as a registered nurse in 1985. She held senior roles within nursing, including director of nursing at the Public Health Agency before joining the RCN in 2016. She became its Northern Ireland director in 2019 and was appointed as general secretary and chief executive in 2021.

Responding to the news Paul Vaughan, chair of RCN Council, said: ‘Pat has been a tremendous leader for our profession and put the College on a journey to a brighter future. She has been fearless in rooting out longstanding cultural issues internally and speaking truth to power in the health service and politics alike.’

The RCN is now seeking candidates for its permanent general secretary and chief executive. In the interim, professor Nicola Ranger, the RCN’s current chief nursing officer and deputy general secretary and chief executive, will take on responsibility as acting RCN general secretary and chief executive.

Should Ms Cullen win the seat, she is unlikely to be seen in the House of Commons. As Irish republicans Sinn Fein refuse to recognise British jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, and do not sit in Parliament.