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RCN Congress 2014: full analysis


All the activity and announcements from the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference

5pm CNO backs readiness of new transparency initiative on staffing levels

The chief nursing officer for England claims her team is doing more to improve staffing levels than has ever been done before.

“We’ve done more on staffing in the past 18 months than has ever been done on a national level ever before,” said Jane Cummings yesterday at RCN Congress, while giving the annual Mary Seacole lecture.

Jane Cummings

Jane Cummings

She highlighted progress towards the regular publication of trust staffing numbers on the NHS Choices website, which is due to begin on 24 June. She told delegates that staffing numbers had now been uploaded to the website from “nearly” every single organisation in the country, in preparation for publication.

However, RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos questioned the effectiveness of such measures, compared to empowering nurses themselves to decide safe staffing levels.

3pm Nurses ‘tired of being treated with contempt by politicians’, warns RCN president

Nurses need to “use the power of the ballot box and the vote, and not their feet” to make their voices heard, according to the Royal College of Nursing’s president.


Andrea Spyropoulos

In her last speech to congress Andrea Spyropoulos, urged delegates to “get political” to ensure that politicians realised their strength of feeling about pay and staffing.

“We need to stand together and send a strong message that nurses have had enough,” she said. “They are tired of being the scapegoat. They are tired of choosing between leaving their patients and leaving their families, and being treated with contempt by politicians.”

1.52pm The Times newspaper had carried a story ahead of the debate on charging for GP appointments suggesting nurses were in favour of the resolution, which attracted a lot of criticism on Twitter.

Despite, the result of the congress vote, the paper was still running the story at lunchtime.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail ran pretty much the same story as The Times, but got a quote from the government ruling out GP charging. Therefore, making Jeremy Hunt the good guy and nurses the bad guys.


10.30am RCN rejects introduction of charges for GP consultations

Millions of patients would die if charges were introduced for GP visits, according to members of the Royal College of Nursing. In one of the most passionate debates at the conference so far, 91.77% of congress voted against the resolution, 8.23% voted for and there were nine abstentions.

Just to point that at present no government in the UK has plans to introduce GP charges.

9am Wednesday Welcome to day three at RCN Congress in Liverpool. The sun is shining!



7pm RCN leader asked to justify lack of minister at congress

The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing has defended his decision not to invite a minister to speak at this year’s congress, after suggestions it may have been a “tactical blunder”.

5.45pm RCN chief exec Peter Carter held a Q&A session with a group of members, where he answered a range of questions on topics including whistleblowing, public health, and the state of training healthcare assistants.

5pm Charity music video launched to promote 6Cs of nursing

A video of the “Care Makers song” featuring the 6Cs and a host of nursing VIPs, including chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings, was shown live for the first time on the NHS Employers stand at lunchtime.

The song has been written and recorded by Sam McPhail, a Care Maker and student nurse from the University of Bradford. A showing of the music video was also a focal point at the Nursing Times drinks reception in the Blue Bar yesterday evening.

Click on the link above to go to a page where you can watch the video. It’s worth watching to check out the CNO’s dance moves.

1pm NMC hopes revalidation will fix ‘weaknesses’ in current system

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has admitted that it has “weaknesses” in its current system of checking if nurses should stay on the register and says that the revalidation process is an opportunity for it to improve.

The NMC’s director of practice Katerina Kolyva spoke today at a lunchtime fringe event at RCN Congress, following a discussion on revalidation in the main conference hall.


11.50am Francis says nursing lacks ‘unified voice’ that ministers cannot ignore The hall was packed for keynote speech from the chair of the public inquiry into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, who was given a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday honours at the weekend.

Robert Francis

Robert Francis

In a warmly received speech, Sir Robert Francis thanked nurses for all the work they did and described nursing as both a “vocation and a profession”

He said nurses have the power to “transform” care in failing healthcare organisations but warned that he thought the nursing profession itself lacked a “unified voice” to challenge the government.

“There is a need for some more identifiable, authoritative body, which is recognised and has the authority to speak for the profession on issues of patient safety and quality of service,” he said, repeating his view that the dual role of the RCN as a union and professional body was problematic.

11.40am Tougher rules on staffing still needed, warns whistleblower

A leading nurse whistleblower has questioned the robustness and effectiveness of new measures to improve transparency on nurse staffing levels.

The system leaves “room for manipulation and massaging and falsifying figures”, according to Helene Donnelly, the former Mid Staffs nurse whistleblower who is now a national advisor on raising concerns within the NHS. She was speaking at a fringe event yesterday lunchtime.

11.30am We have now moved onto congress resolution number 9, on targets and pressures.

It states: “That this meeting of RCN Congress asks Council to review the impact of a target orientated culture on nurses and nursing.”

The resolution was submitted by the RCN Southampton Branch.

It was passed, with 97.53% (513 voting members) in favour, 2.47% (13) against and and five abstainers.

11am Congress has passed a resolution against new legislation on lobbying, which was tabled by the RCN Inner North Central London Branch.

The resolution stated: “That this meeting of RCN Congress resolves that the RCN should not be silenced by the Lobbying Act and should ensure that the voice of nursing is still heard in election years.”

It was passed, with 98.05% (502 voting members) in favour, 1.95% (10) against and eight abstainers.

9.40am NHS chief execs should ‘beg’ nursing staff to raise concerns

NHS chief executives should crawl “on bended knee from one side of their hospital to the other” to beg staff to raise concerns, according to leading health policy commentator Roy Lilley.

Nursing Times editor Jenni Middleton reports on Mr Lilley’s speech, which was delivered yesterday.

9.20am RCN Council’s report to members on last year’s conference has just been delivered. Criticism from non-voting member Tom Bolger and others on members not being sent a copy of the report to see in advance. Apparently it has been available online.

He also called on RCN council to give the same weight to “matters for discussion” as it does for “resolutions”, in terms of taking action.

For anyone interested, this is the report they are discussing: Council’s report to members on Congress 2013

7.51am District nurses are ‘facing extinction’, warns RCN District nurses are “critically endangered” and face extinction by the end of 2025 if urgent investment is not made, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

The past decade has seen a 47% fall in qualified district nursing staff numbers in England. But research commissioned by the RCN predicts the present shortage of district nurses will get worse, with 35% currently over 50 years old and approaching retirement.

District community nurse home visit carer

Tuesday 7.30am Good morning and welcome to day two of RCN Congress from Liverpool. Lots more to look forward to today, including a keynote speech by Robert Francis QC.

6.30pm Lord Willis discusses his Shape of Caring review on nurse eduation and training at fringe event on Monday evening. Health Education England’s Lisa Bayliss-Pratt and Jackie Smith, chief executive and registar of Nursing and Midwifery Council, also in attendance.

RCN Congress 2014

Ferris Wheel, ACC, Liverpool

RCN Congress 2014

RCN Congress 2014

4.52pm And the next discussion is on the thorny issue of smoking by patients.

It has been tabled by the RCN’s Nursing in Criminal Justice Services Forum, and discusses the impact on nurses of the NICE recommendation that patients in heathcare environments should be banned from going outside to smoke at any point during their treatment.

The nub of the issue seems to be that stopping patients smoking can make them violent and abusive.


4.40pm A&E units ‘hampered’ by lack of properly trained nursesAccident and emergency nursing is in a “sorry state”, the Royal College of Nursing has warned today, with better workforce planning and education a necessity.

The RCN has released figures this afternoon revealing up to 18% of full-time registered nursing posts in A&E departments in England are not being permanently filled.

4.30pm The conference is currently discussing a resolution put forward by RCN Students Committee:

“That this meeting of RCN Congress urges Council to encourage healthcare employers to recognise and take action to reduce the impact of poor working environments on the mental, emotional and physical health of their staff.”

Resolution is passed with 98.7% (485 voting members) in favour, and 1.2% (six) against.

4.20pm Following the emergency resolution on pay action, Peter Carter gives RCN Congress an update on what is planned next.

He says the RCN will lobby parliament on pay on 5 July, along with other unions. Two reps from each RCN region will meet their MP.

He adds that the campaign will be long-term.

4.06pm There was a brief moment of panic as a dog chased a ball onto stage during the interval. The same dog later returned to the stage for official business during a debate on occupational health. Pictured below with owner Bethann Siviter.

RCN Congress 2014

RCN Congress

3.45pm The votes are in on the emergency pay motion calling for sustained action (see below). It is passed by 100% (489 voting member) with three abstainers, following a passionate debate by members.


Congress chair then opens it up to the whole hall so non-voting members have an unofficial say as well. It gets what looks like 100% hands in the air in favour. Certainly there were no hands up against it − but that would have been a brave move given the atmosphere in the conference hall.

3.30pm Slightly surreal moment as Andrew Bassett-Scott Toogood protests over pay via the medium of ukulele. A standing ovasion follows.

RCN Congress 2014

Andrew Bassett-Scott Toogood

3.25pm Dave Dawes calls on RCN Council to allow a vote on industrial action over pay, saying that college members should have their say on it and that lobbying/protest may not be enough. Is he first to directly challenge Carter’s view?

3.20pm Congress now discussing emergency resolution tabled on pay issue. It states:

“That this meeting of RCN Congress deplores the Westminster government’s decision to ignore the recommendations of the independent Pay Review Body and asks Council to commit to a sustained campaign to protect pay and resist further erosion of terms and conditions.”  

I’m not expecting any votes against.

3pm The dust has now settled after a tub-thumping speech by health policy raconteur Roy Lilley. Now it’s back to the business of debates and resolutions.

1.15pm Peter Carter elaborates on his comments about strike action and pay in a press conference.

“I consciously set out my stall. I know nurses. I have never seen them so angry, and so feeling that they are put down all the time when most of them are doing a great job.

“But I would rather set out my stall that when it comes to crunch time, they are not going to be walking out of wards and leaving patients, they are not going to do it because they are not that type of people.

“And I hope the government doesn’t trade off of that. What you would hope the government would do is actually think ‘well isn’t that great, isn’t that good that, despite all the difficulties, these people are conscientious’ – that’s what I would hope, but we’ll have to see,” he says.

So, looks like RCN leaders have already ruled out strike action on pay. Of course, we may get some emergency resolutions tabled on this issue from members over the next few days, which may change things.

12.31pm Standing ovasion for Peter Carter from congress. He signs off by telling members they should be “immensely proud of everything that you do for patients”.


12.25pm RCN chief exec moves onto staffing levels. “Staff numbers are beginning to rise, but it’s going to take years to recover from the damage that’s been done,” he tells congress.

“We must keep pushing until we have the right number of staff with the right skills in all settings, everywhere in the UK,” he adds.

RCN Congress 2014

Peter Carter addresses RCN Congress 2014

12.15pm Peter Carter now tells members that he doesn’t favour strike action over pay. Lobbying MPs and other protests are the way forward, he says. How will this go down with members? No real clues from the body language of the audience at present.

12.09pm Peter Carter moves on to pay. Warming to his task now. Attacks government for its decision to overall the recommendaitons of the Pay Review Body for a 1% blanket pay rise. “It’s a double standard, it’s insulting and it’s blatantly unfair,” he tells congress. He pauses after applause from members.

RCN Congress 2014

Peter Carter address RCN Congress 2014

He then welcomes Scotland’s decision to implement the PRB recommendation, while noting that it is still be decided what will happen on nurse in Wales and Northern Ireland.

12.05pm Peter Carter uses first half of speech to celebrate work of nurses and also the RCN itself. Talks about pressures affecting frontline staff, noting in particular those in Northern Ireland. He goes on to discuss the dual role of RCN as union and college − arguing that it can do both, despite recommendations of Francis report.

11.52am RCN congress gets ready to hear from their chief executive and general secretary, Peter Carter. The student members are allowed in for this bit.

11:45am Congress members vote in favour of resolution on sleep, put forward by RCN Suffolk branch.

Resolution stated that RCN Council should seek ways to educate hospital staff about the effect of noise at night on patients and promote nurse-led measures to reduce noise when patients are sleeping. (Think there may have been a slight change of wording agreed, which I’ll update once I’ve checked)

Members passed the resolution with only a small majority – 52.50% were favour but 47.50% were against!

RCN congress

Members vote on sleep resolution at RCN Congress 2014


8.58am Just spotted this RCN story on ITV website, which I’ve not seen elsewhere yet this this morning: NHS will be ‘forced to rely on more agency nurses’

Headline talks about agency nurses but most of story seems to be about recruitment of overseas nurses to plug NHS staffing shortages. RCN chief exec Peter Carter quoted as saying: “It will get worse before it gets better.”

8.15am Early start for some at congress. RCN members will be meeting at the Ferris wheel outside the conference centre to show their anger about pay, before marching together into congress at 8.30am. Doubt there will be many student members among them - was their congress party last night.

RCN Congress 2014

RCM members protest about nurse pay in Liverpool



8am Nurses’ pay floundering in wake of rises for NHS execs, warns RCN The big story of Monday so far. RCN research shows the amount of money the NHS spends on paying its senior managers has accelerated way ahead of that for frontline staff.

The amount spent on executive directors over the last two years has increased by an average of 6.1%, compared to a 1.6% rise in earnings for nurses, midwives or health visitors.

Maybe not a huge surprise to many but the gap between two is still shocking, given the finance challenges faced by NHS. The story has also been picked up by the BBC and the left-leaning press: The Guardian, The Mirror, and the The Independent. The story seems to have been missed by the Telegraph, Times and Mail though − quelle surprise.


7.45am Call to support ‘silent generation’ of older people with HIV For anyone that missed it, the RCN kicked off congress yesterday by calling for more support for a “silent generation” of older patients with HIV that the college warned were at risk of being let down by the health service.

The challenges of ensuring the best care for the increasing number of older people with HIV are due to be among the issues debated today.

7.30am Good Morning and welcome to RCN Congress 2014 Live, the first day of our live rolling news service from the college’s annual conference. The event is taking place this year in Liverpool, from 15-19 June.

RCN Congress 2014

RCN Congress 2014


Readers' comments (4)

  • The congress don't seem to have such a good way of disseminating their information and searching for and targeting items of interest as they have on previous years. is this a cost-saving measure?

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  • Can I point out that 'targets and pressures' was the resolution from Southampton branch and not Scunthorpe as written in your round-up.

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  • Many thanks for pointing this out. The text has been amended.

  • No one has mentioned the banner outside the main entrance "Nurses Opposed to Euthanasia!. No one care about the fact that nurses may have to assist patients to die prematurely or even have to kill their patients, in hospitals, care homes and even their own homes! No one care that those who feel a burden might feel they should take the option of premature death?They may feel there is no hope and we nurses will have to say, "yes your right" not audibly but by given them the lethal does, when better holistic care, esp for depression should be the answer

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  • Anonymous | 23-Jun-2014 11:30 am

    is that a confession of your own guilt?

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