We’re taking the temperature on the Society’s future

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By Richard Innes, Member of Council

You may be wondering why the Intensive Care Society (ICS), along with many of the Royal Colleges, is restrained when commenting on the junior doctors dispute. Before I became involved in the ICS I thought it was just a case of a load of old men in grey suits worried about criticising the government for fear of reducing their chances of a gong.

I am glad to report that nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is there a lack of grey suits (and gongs). But also, there has been fierce discussion within the ICS Council about how best we can support the junior doctors – and particularly those within critical care who will potentially be the most disadvantaged by the imposition of a new contract.

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The ICS is a charity set up with the specific aims of developing the practice of intensive care medicine and provide strategic direction for critical care research.  We spent 92.5% of our expenditure (£1.31m) on charitable activities in 2014.

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“A non-charitable organisation can express an opinion on whatever it likes, charities cannot”

Charities must remain within their founding principles. Therefore whilst a non-charitable organisation can express an opinion on whatever it likes, providing it doesn’t break normal standards of decency, charities cannot. Therein lies the challenge for us. It means that a statement condemning the present government’s actions does not lie within the remit of the charitable set up of this organisation.

Thus any statement by the ICS supporting the junior doctors must be carefully worded and relatively benign. With the junior doctors dispute and soon a new consultant contract and then, I suspect, contract changes for our nursing, physio and other colleagues, the ability of the ICS to be seen to support its members becomes paramount.

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“The ability of the ICS to be seen to support its members becomes paramount”

Our restraints are in contrast to say the BMA. Or indeed to the Association of Anaesthetists, which has  both a charitable and non-charitable arm – the latter being effectively free to say whatever it thinks.

The ICS is not a union. But we represent our members.  To do this effectively we may need not to be constrained by the rigid aims resulting from our charitable status. The time might have arrived for us to split into, on the one hand, a charitable side (the Intensive Care Foundation), and on the other, a non-charitable side. The latter can vociferously support our members in whatever ways are necessary to further the practice and development of intensive care medicine.

The grey suits are ready to release the full potential of the Intensive Care Society – stay tuned for their next move…

One thought on “The limitations of charitable status

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