What is a Royal Charter?
A Royal Charter is an ‘instrument of incorporation’, granted by The Queen, which confers independent legal personality on an organisation and defines its objectives, constitution and powers to govern its own affairs.
Incorporation by Charter is a prestigious way of acquiring legal personality and reflects the high status of that body. The authority for the grant of a Charter comes from the Royal Prerogative, that is to say, the grant is made by the Sovereign (on the advice of the Privy Council).
A Royal Charter does not automatically confer the title ‘Royal’ on the applicant, but the process of Chartering is ‘Royal’ since Her Majesty the Queen must be satisfied that we fulfil the criteria for incorporation to bestow the title ‘Chartered’ on us. We may however seek to achieve ‘Royal’ in our title at a later date. This is the first step in that process.
Why are we applying?
A Charter would highlight echocardiography as a speciality, increasing awareness of our work and giving us a stronger voice. It would enhance our Society’s standing as the single national centre and voice for the practice of echocardiographers. This essentially formally recognises and ‘rubber-stamps’ at the highest level the work that we do for our patients.
Societies such as ours are only in a position to petition for a Charter when they have reached a certain maturity in what they do, such that they are regarded by their peers as effectively already setting the standard in their profession. We are in a fairly unique position that we can now consider doing this.
How will this affect my membership?
The intention is that it will enhance members’ experience, ensuring they have the profile and recognition they deserve.
With regards to fees, there are no plans for an increase in fees and they will continue to be due on 1 April every year. All membership benefits will continue as normal.
Accredited members and Fellows will be entitled to use post-nominal identifiers as described below.
How do we ‘petition’ for a Royal Charter and who is it bestowed by?
Having been given a positive response from our initial approach to the Privy Council we have now been invited to Petition for a Royal Charter. This involves producing and submitting the following core documents:
- The Petition which formally requests a Royal Charter and describes our history, how we run ourselves and what we do for patients and the public.
- Our proposed Charter which describes the powers of the organisation. These would replace the Articles.
- Our proposed by-laws which essentially describe our internal structure
- A list of non-objectors - this is the formal name given to the support offered by our fellow societies and colleges, essentially all the people that we interact with when doing our job.
These documents will be available for you to review in the coming weeks.
Once the Privy Council receive our Petition documents, they will form a committee who go out to their advisors for triangulation in order to decide amongst themselves if we should be recommended for Chartering to Her Majesty the Queen.
The Charter is referred to as Royal because the Charter can only be bestowed by the Sovereign. The Sovereign will sign our Royal Charter to create a new ‘public body’ if Her Majesty believes it has been shown to be in the interests of the public to do so.
What would our name be if the BSE was incorporated by Royal Charter? Why does it need to change?
Our new name would need to describe who we are and what we do for the British public.
- A ‘Royal Charter’ refers to our service to the British public. The word ‘Chartered’ actually means ‘appointed as a public body by the Sovereign in the interests of the British public’. So you can see why the word Chartered is so useful!
- We would also move from being a ‘society’ (a group of like-minded individuals with common aims and interests) and become a ‘college’ (an appointed educational body which awards post-nominals for the achievement of accreditation or fellowships). This would allow our accredited members to use the post-nominal identifier ‘Member of the Chartered College of Echocardiographers’ (MCCE) or ‘Fellow of the Chartered College of Echocardiographers’ (FCCE).
- The word Echocardiographers refers to who we are as a professional group.
Therefore our new name would be:
‘The Chartered College of Echocardiographers’
Which other organisations have achieved a Royal Charter?
The history of Royal Chartering goes back to 1155. If Her Majesty the Queen chooses to bestow a Royal Charter on the Society then we will take our formal place in British history and join a list of institutions which make up the essential fabric of public life. Click here to see who has come before us, from the Weavers Company in 1155 to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in 2008. Since Chartering began nearly 900 years ago just over 1,000 bodies have been awarded a Royal Charter, so you can see how prestigious this would be for us.
How would this affect my accreditation status?
Anyone who has achieved accreditation with the BSE (in whatever specialty or specialties) would be immediately granted the post-nominal MCCE or FCCE for Fellows. New successful examination candidates would be granted those post-nominals from the moment of incorporation onwards.
This would confer a significant professional status to our examinations and demonstrate parity across all of our arenas of work.
Your accreditation status would not be affected in any other way including the re-accreditation status.
Are there any downsides to being incorporated by a Royal Charter? What are the potential benefits?
Given that we are seeking a Charter in order to have our national work and the high standard of our professional examinations recognised as they are in their current form, there are no downsides to this process for us as members.
Conversely the potential benefits of holding a Royal Charter are vast: these are the five most important reasons we are seeking a Charter:
- Stronger voice for interacting with government and other national offices
- Unified professional identity with which to address long term workforce issues
- Attractive robust professional post-nominal identifiers attracting new individuals into the workforce
- Parity with organisations of a similar standing to our own
- Recognition for our meteoric development over the last 30 years
What would be the effect on the immediate work of the Society?
The work of the new College would reflect our current portfolio: that is to educate and accredit echocardiographers and to develop the profession of echocardiography through working in partnership and representing the profession at a governmental level. The Charter would not change the focus.
How does this affect the regulation of echocardiographers as a profession?
The new College would not become a national regulatory body: we have not included this power in our by-laws. However, we would continue to professionally regulate the list of accredited members which we would continue to hold and maintain. The Society currently already performs in this role; there would therefore be little change in this regard.
What are the plans for the future?
We will continue to focus all our work on our membership needs as we always have done. We may, at a future date, consider applying for the title ‘Royal’ for the organisation.