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RCN Congress 2019: day 4 as it happened

RCN Congress 2019: day 4 as it happened


Chair BJ Waltho closes Congress with a few thank yous of important members of staff.

A point of order is raised – the delegate would like to thank Ms Waltho. Congress stands to applaud. We have to say, she’s been very entertaining all week with her witty retorts and savage putdowns. She tells us she’s back next year, so we have that to look forward to.

And with this, we finish our live coverage of Congress for the week. There will be more on site over the next day or so – items from some fringe sessions at Congress – so keep an eye out for that.


Given it was the last debate and resolution of this year’s Congress, this one on RCN boards, branches and member engagement has attracted a lot of speakers.

Engagement is something the RCN struggles with, as chair Sue Warner told us back in March. The debating time saw many take the stage to explain how their branch has struggled with attendance at meetings and uncertainty over the structure of the RCN. Others weren’t entirely sure what the functions of the branch were.

One speaker thinks the key is to engage students, otherwise you ‘risk losing them’ with regard to future engagement with the College.

And that resolution was passed.


Mr Gilmore-Kavanagh has returned (see 12.10 entry). He raises a point of order and apologises for encouraging people on Twitter to walk out of Congress (see 12.35 entry) ‘in a show of solidarity’ with those disabled users who were affected earlier (see 12.00 entry).


We have a confession to make. While we’re here at Congress, we are supposed to be paying attention to the debates and resolutions. And we are. But the press tables are situated right in front of the accessible seating area, and there’s an unbelievably cute baby about five metres away from us. He’s been there for the last two days with his mother, and every now and then we find ourselves watching him in all his cute glory.

Thankfully the big screen has subtitles that are about 10 seconds behind what the speaker is saying, so if we’re not sure what’s been said, we can read it.


It’s taken until the fourth day, but we were blessed with not one, but two unanimous ‘for’ votes for a couple of resolutions. One emergency resolution on learning disability, and another encouraging the RCN to work with UK Governments to tackle loneliness.


During lunch, they have cleared a row of seats near the front and center of the stage to allow wheelchair users and others with a disability to sit more in the eyeline of the chair. A sensible move.

Their previous position – off to the left hand side near the entrance/exit – made sense but did mean their ability to participate in debates was hindered.


Debates are continuing – a resolution on personal care followed by an emergency matter of discussion on achieving a low carbon economy in healthcare – but there’s still an uneasy air in the room.

A delegate comes forward to the point of order microphone to say that there is some talk on Twitter encouraging people to walk out of Congress (see 12.10 and 12.00 entries). It’s had a small impact, as there was a complaint about five minutes before this about people walking out while discussion was taking place.

Chair BJ Waltho describes it as ‘unprofessional’, and would like a better solution to the problems.


A point of order is raised by delegate John Gilmore-Kavanagh. He says he will not return until Congress as a whole has apologised. He then walks out.


An incredibly heated and uncomfortable 10 minutes at Congress. A disabled delegate is unhappy that she didn’t get a chance to speak during the previous resolution (see 11.30 and 11.50). She feels it’s an issue that’s been occurring throughout the four days at Congress – disabled members not being given the opportunity to speak because chair BJ Waltho hasn’t noticed the roving microphone in that section of the audience.

A long back and forth takes place, via numerous points of order being raised one after the other, between Ms Waltho and members sitting in the wheelchair accessible areas of the venue, who feel their ability to participate in Congress has been hindered.

A delegate steps up to the point of order microphone and requests moving to the next order of business, to rapturous applause and cheers. This did not go down well with those in the wheelchair accessible areas – ‘how do you think that makes us feel, hearing you applaud a move to the next business while we raise a point of order,’ a member and wheelchair user shouts out to Congress.

She’s furious, and leaves the main hall.


That emergency resolution on governance of the RCN was passed, with the original wording kept. That review will be one to keep an eye on over the next 12 months.


An emergency resolution, added to the agenda a day or so ago, is being discussed. It calls for ‘an immediate and independent’ review of governance and decision making in order to support the future endeavours of Council.

But a point of order is raised to try and amend the word ‘independent’ to ‘objective’, due to concerns that an independent review means external, costly consultants having to cast their eye over the College.

For now, we continue with the wording as it is. ‘Independent doesn’t necessarily mean external,’ says delegate Samantha Margerison.


The current resolution, encouraging RCN Council to lobby employers to set up systems to protect healthcare professionals from sexual harassment by patients or their friends/family, has garnered great debate. Delegates giving examples of harassment they experienced at work, examples where they had great support from managers, plus others. 

But what stirred a lot of back and forth was the issue of focusing on patients and their families/friends. Many believe it should cover sexual harassment from all in the workplace, including colleagues – ‘I think we’re more likely to suffer harassment from a colleague than a patient,’ says one delegate. 

An attempt to change the wording was rebuffed as the proposer felt there are policies to cover harassment from colleagues, but very little to cover instances from patients.


Ellen Cullen gets up to speak on the first resolution of the day – on rural healthcare.

She joined the NHS in 1949! ‘Just after our boys were coming home from the second World War,’ she says. We salute this lady.


We’re off on our final day of RCN Congress.

The turnout is the lowest yet for a morning session. It’s not surprising, as the RCN Congress party went on until midnight last night – officially, at least. 

Chair BJ Waltho begins the morning by voicing what we’re all thinking. ‘There are a lot of empty seats this morning,’ she said. ‘And a lot of bright lights. Perhaps that speaks for the success of last night.’

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The latest from day 4 of RCN Congress