Analysis

RCN congress 2022: the issues nurses will be talking about

Your quick guide to the votes and discussions on the agenda, ranging from financial hardship and overwork to digital consultations and compassion fatigue

Your quick guide to the votes and discussions on the agenda, ranging from financial hardship and overwork to digital consultations and compassion fatigue

Picture: John Houlihan

Nurses are preparing to descend on Glasgow to discuss the most pressing issues for the profession at the RCN’s 2022 congress.

RCN members will gather from 5-9 June for the first in-person congress in three years, to debate and influence nursing and healthcare policy.

How do congress debates work?

There are two classes of debate, and both kinds are scheduled to last about half an hour:

  • Resolution 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

Your quick guide to the votes and discussions on the agenda, ranging from financial hardship and overwork to digital consultations and compassion fatigue

Nurses clapping at a debate during RCN congress
Picture: John Houlihan

Nurses are preparing to descend on Glasgow to discuss the most pressing issues for the profession at the RCN’s 2022 congress.

RCN members will gather from 5-9 June for the first in-person congress in three years, to debate and influence nursing and healthcare policy.

How do congress debates work?

There are two classes of debate, and both kinds are scheduled to last about half an hour:

  • Resolution 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.
  • Matter for discussion Members debate a motion and share views, but there is no vote.

In addition, there are emergency agenda items, which can be submitted at any point up to and during the congress, and reflect the most pressing professional or political issues as they happen.

What’s on the agenda at RCN congress 2022?

One of the biggest events on the nursing calendar, congress is expected to attract more than 2,000 delegates, with most travelling to Glasgow and the rest joining remotely.

Here is our at-a-glance guide to the main hall debates, from overwork to financial hardship and whether the title ‘nurse’ should be protected.

Illustration showing two nurses in scrubs behind a registered nurse emblem
Picture: iStock

1. Protecting the title ‘nurse’ (resolution)

Motion RCN council should lobby legislators to protect the title ‘nurse' in the UK.

The title of ‘nurse’ can be claimed by anyone in the UK, even if they have no nursing qualifications or experience, or they have been struck off the NMC register. Unison, Unite and the RCN all back a campaign to legally protect the designation of ‘nurse’ to safeguard the public and promote respect for the professional status of nurses.

Nursing staff in PPE
Picture: Alamy

2. Nursing leadership (resolution)

Motion RCN council to lobby UK governments to recognise and champion the contribution and impact of nurse leadership at all levels from the bedside to the boardroom, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nurses will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted the complexity of nursing and the agility of nurse leadership to rally the profession.

Picture: iStock

3. Financial hardship (matter for discussion)

Motion The role of nursing in addressing financial hardship and poverty.

The cost-of-living crisis is a result of soaring fuel prices and interest and inflation rates, and compounds health inequalities. Congress will discuss the role of nurses in tackling the problem and removing the stigma of poverty.

Illustration of a nursing in PPE sitting on a battery that is running low
Picture: Annette Taylor-Anderson

4. Overworking (resolution)

Motion RCN council to investigate the impact on the health and well-being of members working over their shift or contracted hours.

As staffing shortages continue to stretch the workforce, three quarters of respondents to the latest RCN employment survey say they regularly work beyond their shift, often unpaid. Congress will discuss the impact this is having on nurses.

Illustration of a nursing standing in front of hospital beds, some green, some red, highlighting nurse to patient ratios
Picture: Daniel Mitchell

5. Safe staffing (matter for discussion)

Motion RCN congress to discuss the successes and impact of the RCN staffing for safe and effective care campaign.

With 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone, staffing levels remains a major issue for nurses in all settings.

In May 2021, the RCN published nursing workforce standards to set out detailed expectations for employers, regulators and national organisations to support patient safety.

A nurse talking to patients in a quiet, dedicated space in a hospital
Picture: iStock

6. Location for care (matter for discussion)

Motion RCN congress to discuss the appropriate location for patient care.

Shortages in services and staff means that where patients and their families are cared for is dictated by where there is space, rather than what is best for them, congress will hear. Nurses will discuss the impact this is having on families and healthcare professionals.

Picture: iStock

7. COVID-19 (matter for discussion)

Motion The impact of COVID-19 on the nursing workforce.

The ongoing toll on nurses of working through the pandemic will be discussed.

Visit our COVID-19 resource centre
A nurse with long-COVID recovering at home
Picture: iStock

8. Long-COVID (resolution)

Motion RCN council to campaign for nursing staff with long-COVID to receive equitable and effective support.

More than 1.3 million people are estimated to be experiencing long-COVID symptoms, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Many nurses have described struggling with symptoms including exhaustion, breathlessness and brain fog.

Illustration of a nurse in a face mask, alongside a health passport
Picture: iStock

9. Health ability passports (resolution)

Motion RCN council to lobby the UK government to make health ability passports compulsory for the nursing workforce.

A health ability passport, also known as an adjustment passport, is a document completed by an individual with a disability or neurodiversity and their line manager. It is a record of the workplace adjustments agreed for that individual to remove barriers to work, and can improve the workplace experience of health workers with disabilities.

Illustration of two faces on silhouette, one black, one white
Picture: iStock

10. Inequality (matter for discussion)

Motion RCN congress to discuss inequalities in the diagnosis and treatment of ethnically diverse people.

The murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the US in 2020 brought into sharp focus the extent of racial prejudice in society. Congress will discuss how nursing can harness the fresh attention being given to the issue to review the equity of training and practices.

An exhausted overseas nurse in scrubs and face mask
Picture: iStock

11. Ethical overseas recruitment (resolution)

Motion RCN council to lobby employers to formulate policies for ethical overseas recruitment of nursing staff, with transparent terms and conditions of employment.

The RCN has heard from a number of members recruited from overseas who are tied into contracts by extremely high early exit fees. There have also been reports of employers trying to frighten nurses into staying in their roles through threats of deportation.

Nurses will discuss how recruitment practices can be transparent, dignified and free of exploitation.

12. Workforce (matter for discussion)

Motion This motion will discuss how to balance the need for healthcare organisations to be cost-effective without sacrificing patient safety or adequate staffing for the delivery of safe and effective care.

13. Agenda for Change (resolution)

Motion RCN council to conduct an immediate review of Agenda for Change (AfC) to establish whether it is fit for purpose.

AfC is the pay system for all NHS nurses across the UK. But there are concerns from some RCN members that a lack of investment, inconsistency of approach and poor application of the job evaluation scheme, as well as variations across regions and countries, have left it not fit for purpose.

Picture: iStock

14. Access to care (matter for discussion)

Motion Delegates to discuss the difficulties that transgender, gender non-binary and gender-diverse individuals can face in accessing care and treatment, which can result in traumatic experiences and limit people’s confidence in accessing services.

15. Safe injecting facilities (resolution)

Motion RCN council to lobby UK government to support the introduction of safer injecting facilities across the country.

The Westminster government has opposed calls to introduce changes in the law to support the introduction of safer injecting facilities in England, such as have already been implemented in Scotland. These medically supervised centres were introduced to reduce the risk of overdose, in response to rising death rates.

A nurse and patient conducting a digital consultation via tablet
Picture: iStock

16. Digital consultations (matter for discussion)

Motion RCN congress to discuss the impact of digital consultations on nursing and healthcare.

The pandemic has seen a huge increase in the number of nursing consultations delivered digitally, but questions remain about whether these limit the delivery of holistic care, disadvantage non-digital users, and provide the tools necessary to tackle the rising demand for care.

A nurse providing supervision on the ward
Picture: iStock

17. Digital leadership (resolution)

Motion RCN council to show support for introducing and embedding clinical digital leadership roles across the health and social care sectors.

Some nurses feel there is little consideration given to clinical staff when developing and commissioning new technology. Delegates will discuss how to boost nursing leadership to lead the way in digital transformation.

18. Future Nurse Standards (matter for discussion)

Motion RCN congress to reflect on the impact of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Future Nurse Standards on mental health nurse education across the UK.

This debate aims to highlight a growing dissatisfaction among mental health nurses with what is perceived to be a dilution of mental health nursing as a distinct specialty.

19. Supernumerary status (resolution)

Motion RCN council to lobby for the protection of supernumerary status for nursing students.

Worries that staffing and operational pressures make it harder to protect students ‘ supernumerary status will be discussed.

Illustration of a nurse who looks tired, sitting on the ground with a wind-up key protruding from their back
Picture: Annette Taylor-Anderson

20. Compassion fatigue (matter for discussion)

Motion Delegates to discuss raising awareness of compassion fatigue, and its potential impact.

The RCN’s Norfolk branch says discussion should cover compassion fatigue not only among those giving hands-on care, but also its effects on nursing leaders.

21. Overseas nursing (resolution)

Motion RCN council to produce a strategy for the recognition of the skills and development needs of overseas nurses – who account for almost one in five (18%) of the nursing register – coming to work in the UK, and how they might be better supported.

A family member and a nurse at the bedside of patient at the end of life
Picture: SPL

22. Assisted dying (resolution)

Motion Nurses to consider if RCN council should review the 2014 position statement on assisted dying, which moved the college to a position of neutrality.

RCN Wales says this debate is not about being for or against assisted dying, but whether the statement should be updated with information relating to the Assisted Dying Bill that is being examined by parliament.

A nurse providing care to an individual in prison, with a guard present
Picture: Andrew Barton

23. Prison nursing (matter for discussion)

Motion RCN congress to discuss the impact of prisoners’ complex health needs on prison nursing.

Years of austerity have affected prison staffing, the congress audience will hear. Yet care is getting more complex, as the number of older prisoners has gone up, and there is increased disorder, violence, self-harm, overcrowding and drug use.

24. Intergenerational fairness (matter for discussion)

Motion To discuss intergenerational fairness and its relevance to, and impact on, nurses and nursing.

Intergenerational fairness is a concept that affects the nursing workforce as the givers and the receivers of care. It has economic, psychological and sociological aspects, all of which combine to ensure equity – or lack of it – between generations.


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