RCN congress 2019: your quick guide to what’s on the agenda

Nurses’ pay, staffing levels, clinical issues and bullying to be discussed

Picture: John Houlihan

Thousands of nurses will be heading to Liverpool for RCN congress on 19-23 May to learn, debate and influence nursing and healthcare policy.

Here's our at-a-glance guide to the main hall debates, from the decriminalisation of prostitution, to uniforms and clinical supervision of nurses by other professions.

As congress gets under way, we'll be updating you with all the latest stories on our RCN congress 2019 page.

How do congress debates work?

There are two types of debate:

1. Resolution (R): Where members vote on a motion; a majority vote directs the future work of the RCN. Each RCN branch and forum is allocated a number of votes according to its size to ensure the whole college membership is represented in the vote.

2. Matter for discussion (MfD): Members debate a motion and share views, but there's no vote.

Emergency agenda items are debate items that can be submitted at any point up to and during congress, and reflect the most pressing professional or political issues as they happen.

Picture: iStock

1. Decriminalisation of prostitution (R)

RCN council should lobby UK governments to decriminalise prostitution.

News of this agenda item has already made headlines and prompted debate on social media. See below for opinions for and against the motion.

2. Do not attempt resuscitation orders (R)

RCN council should review possible failures of healthcare staff to communicate fully with vulnerable groups on the issue of do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR) orders.

3. International Council of Nurses (MfD)

To consider whether the RCN would be more influential globally if it rejoined the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

The college left the ICN in 2014 following a dispute over the cost of its annual membership fee. It said at the time it could not justify spending £615,000 a year on membership.

4. Clinical supervision by other professions (R)

RCN council should challenge employers that impose clinical supervision of registered nurses by other professions.

Members of the proposer branch, RCN Birmingham West and Sandwell, say the role of supervisor in this 'important and valuable clinical supervision relationship' should be taken by a fellow nurse.

5. Media (MfD)

The effect on nursing, healthcare and RCN members of disputes about care decisions that have a high media profile.

This discussion is proposed by the RCN children and young people: acute care forum, which said a number of high-profile, emotive cases have left nurses 'torn in the roles of supporting families through difficult times and being the target of rage and abuse themselves'.

Picture: iStock

6. Nitrous oxide (MfD)

Lack of understanding of the abuse of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, and its consequences for health and well-being.

Nitrous oxide is commonly used as a recreational drug. It has a euphoric effect on users but can cause chemical asphyxiation.

Dame Donna Kinnair
Dame Donna Kinnair.

7. RCN chief executive/general secretary role (R)

RCN council should instigate a review of the joint chief executive/general secretary role with a view to making the latter a position elected by members.

8. Homelessness (MfD)

The effects of a lack of a secure, affordable home on the health and well-being of families and individuals.

Picture: iStock

9. Child poverty (R)

The RCN council should lobby UK governments to provide adequate resources to deal with rising child poverty levels.

Picture: iStock

10. Bullying (R)

Congress should condemn the failure by UK governments to introduce legislation to prevent workplace bullying and RCN council should insist the issue is addressed urgently.

The problem of workplace bullying was thrown into sharp focus last year when mental health nurse Rhian Collins took her own life after being bullied at work.

Picture: iStock

11. Period poverty (R)

RCN council should lobby UK governments to end period poverty.

12. Rural healthcare (R)

RCN council should lobby UK governments for better rural healthcare provision.

Picture: iStock

13. Sepsis (MfD)

Further reductions in avoidable harm and death from sepsis. 

One of the keynote speakers will be sepsis survivor Tom Ray, who 20 years ago had a delayed diagnosis of sepsis that resulted in quadruple amputation.

14. Role design and job flexibility (MfD)

How role design and job flexibility will help the NHS service recruit and retain staff. 

Picture: Jay Williams

15. Uniforms (MfD)

National uniforms should be introduced in England, in line with the rest of the UK.

16. Resilience (MfD)

To discuss whether resilience is always a positive attribute and one to be aspired to in the modern healthcare workforce.

17. NHS pay (MfD)

The role of the NHS Staff Council in delivering fair and adequate pay.

Health service pay was one of the key issues for the college in 2018.

18. Ethical employment (MfD)

The Code of Practice, Ethical Employment in Supply Chains.

This discussion looks at a code introduced by the Welsh government in 2018. Its aim is that NHS and public sector organisations act to eradicate unlawful and unethical employment practices, and all workers at every stage of the supply chain are treated equally. Members of RCN Cardiff and Vale branch propose the motion.

Picture: Dan Mitchell

19. Sexual harassment (R)

RCN council should lobby employers to set up systems to protect healthcare professionals from sexual harassment by patients or patients' families or friends.

Picture: Charles Milligan

20. Personal care (R)

RCN council should lobby UK governments and all social care providers to recognise that personal care is nursing.

Members of RCN Suffolk branch want the importance of fundamental areas of care – including assistance with washing, dressing, personal hygiene, continence, eating and drinking – to be recognised.

Picture: iStock

21. Loneliness (R)

RCN council should engage with UK governments on the national strategy on loneliness, to improve the ability of nursing staff to recognise loneliness and its effects.

22. Safety culture (MfD)

The importance of raising awareness of safety culture, and in doing so, enhancing workplace culture.

Members of the RCN UK safety representatives committee propose this motion, arguing that safe staffing is a fundamental requirement of a safe environment. 

23. RCN boards, branches and member engagement (R)

RCN council is urged to review the functions and structures of RCN boards and branches to promote and encourage members to engage with the RCN.