Bondage fan suspended as Royal College of Nursing chairman

Bondage fan who was suspended as Royal College of Nursing chairman over claims he was ‘openly hostile’ towards women says scrapping of conference is not to do with him

  • The Royal College of Nursing scrapped three-day annual conference in Liverpool
  • Decision followed what it described as ‘serious allegations of sexual harassment’
  • Suspended chairman and bondage expert David Dawes denies it is linked to him 
  • Nurses took to Twitter to express shock asking the union to explain more clearly 

The bondage expert suspended as chairman of the Royal College of Nursing over claims he was ‘openly hostile’ towards women today insisted the cancellation of its annual congress is nothing to do with him.

David Dawes, 53, who is openly polyamorous, has been under investigation for almost two months but insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing and will be cleared in the next week.

He has been accused of being ‘openly hostile’ towards women, allegedly being dismissive of staff concerns about discrimination and faced complaints about ‘sexual references on his own social media account’, according to The Times.

Mr Dawes, a rope bondage expert who has led workshops on techniques who became one of the youngest chief executives in the NHS’ history at the age of just 31, today denied the decision of the RCN to cancel its annual meeting of members in Liverpool following ‘serious allegations of sexual harassment’ is not related to him.

He said: ‘I haven’t been notified that they are about me. If there are genuine allegations against individuals, I would imagine that those individuals would have been notified.’ 

Dave Dawes, who was suspended as chairman of the Royal College of Nursing, says he expects to be cleared of any wrongdoing as the union cancelled its annual conference over ‘serious allegations of sexual harassment’

His words came after the unprecedented move where his union announced it was moving its annual conference online, after taking ‘independent legal advice’.

The RCN, which represents some 465,000 health workers, said that ‘as a matter of urgency’ it was ‘undertaking a full review of all safeguarding policies and procedures as part of our cultural change’.

The RCN Congress was due to be held in Liverpool across three days from September 18.

It did not provide details of the allegations, but said it took a ‘zero tolerance approach’ at all times.

Carol Popplestone, chair of the RCN Council, said: ‘We have acted fast and took a unanimous decision that protects all attendees.

‘We know that many members planning to attend were looking forward to seeing each other in person for the first time in two years.

‘But this decision was made with members’ safety at the top of our minds. That is what we are here to safeguard at all costs.

‘I am absolutely determined that Congress will still be its usual fascinating mix of debates, events and speeches.

‘Getting together virtually won’t stand in the way of that.’ 

Miss Popplestone took over the RCN’s governing body last month after complaints were made against her predecessor David Dawes.

Mr Dawes had also been RCN council member for the North West region but was suspended from both roles pending an investigation.

Days earlier his suspension was announced, the Nursing Times reported that several ‘concerns and complaints’ had been received by the college about Mr Dawes’ conduct following a live question and answer session with members.

Sources said Mr Dawes was alleged to have made ‘derogatory and inflammatory remarks’ in relation to colleagues.

Mr Dawes said last month that he ‘fully intended’ to clear his name.

The RCN said it was taking the complaint ‘extremely seriously’ but it is unclear whether the two investigations are linked.

The decision to cancel the conference received a mixed reaction amongst members, with some praising the union’s decision to prioritise their safety. But others accused the RCN over overreacting and suggested it should have banned any individuals who were the subject of allegations from the event, rather than cancelling it entirely.

One member told the Nursing Notes website: ‘Banning individual men who may pose a risk (to the membership) is one thing, cancelling an entire event based on the ‘alleged’ actions of one, maybe two people, is totally absurd and utterly unacceptable.

‘Many have made plans to attend Congress on their own time and expense.’

It was due to take place at the ACC Liverpool, a conference centre on the banks of the Mersey, (pictured) from September 18 to 20 but has now been moved online

The decision is likely to detract from the key issue facing the union – nurses’ pay. It has been lobbying for a 12.5 per cent pay rise.

Last night, nurses expressed their disbelief on Twitter. Learning disability nurse Catriona McIntosh wrote: ‘Are RCN Council announcing they believe the risk of sexual assault at Congress outweighs the effective running of our union? Would that not be a criminal matter for the police, not Council? Why are you not concentrating on the pay campaign?’

Another, Paul K Watson, wrote: ‘This isn’t a Council matter it sits with the police… My confidence in this organisation has gone.’ But others backed the decision.

The last time the RCN held its annual meeting in person was in May 2019, also in Liverpool.

It was held online last year due to the pandemic. Normally around 3,000 people attend but the union was expecting smaller numbers, in the hundreds, due to the hybrid nature of the event as planned. 

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