Congress Agenda & Events

Each year, Congress debates around 25 subjects, all of which have been submitted by members, covering clinical, staffing, financial, social and political areas. These issues are often reported in the media direct from Congress, and they lead to wide-ranging work carried out by the RCN, often lasting for many years.

The whole process is led by the Congress agenda committee. Any RCN member is entitled to contribute to debates in the hall.

There are two types of debate:

Resolutions –RCN members vote on resolutions and a majority vote directs the future work of the RCN
Matter for discussion –these allow members to explore issues and share views, but no vote is called.
There will also be debates on emergency agenda items. These items can be submitted at any point up to and during Congress, and reflect the most pressing professional and political issues. 

Each RCN branch and forum is allocated a certain number of votes, depending on their size. This helps to ensure that the whole RCN membership is represented in the vote.

We aim to cover about seven debates each day, however the programme of debates may not run to plan to allow for emergency resolutions to be accommodated within the schedule. 

All RCN members are able to enter the hall. Branch, forum and representative committees select voting members to vote on their behalf.

The main business of Congress – debates on Resolutions and Matters for Discussion – is generated entirely by RCN members. Submissions have now closed and will be reviewed by the Agenda Committee at their meeting on 22 and 23 January.

The agenda will be approved by Council at its meeting on 3 February and then published on the RCN website.

You can however submit an emergency agenda item from now right up until Congress finishes on Thursday 11 June 2020. Read our guidance on what makes a good agenda item.

An emergency agenda item must be on an issue or topic which has arisen since the closing date for agenda items which was on January 6 2020.

Any emergency items submitted before Congress will be considered by the Agenda Committee at their meeting immediately before Congress week. The Agenda Committee meets twice daily during Congress to consider emergency items submitted through the week.

What is the agenda committee?

The RCN agenda committee compiles the Congress agenda, contributes to the planning of the event and runs Congress on behalf of RCN Council. Its members - including the Chair of Council and Chief Executive & General Secretary - meet twice a day during Congress to consider any emergency resolutions which have been submitted.

The agenda committee provides a vital link between delegates and the Chair and Vice-Chair of Congress, and advises them on your thoughts and opinions. Agenda committee members are always happy to answer your questions and provide advice to help you participate in debates.

Have your say

Any RCN member can speak in a debate. It’s a fantastic opportunity for you to get your voice heard, and it’s crucial for a good debate that as wide a cross section of views as possible are heard. It can be a daunting experience, but you’ll soon discover that all speakers – especially those taking the microphone for the first time – receive a very warm welcome.

The speaking queues

There will be two speaker queues at the front of the auditorium. It will be at the chair’s discretion to manage the queues to ensure fairness and speakers will be invited from the queues to speak from the microphone on the stage.

Members unable to queue should:

  • speak to the agenda committee beforehand who will arrange for them to be able to speak by either informing the chair beforehand or by ensuring that the chair is aware during the debate
  • or speak to an ambassador who will liaise with the agenda committee so they can proceed as above.

A roving mic will be available at the agenda committee desk for those unable to go to the stage to speak.

At the podium

  • When you are at the microphone, introduce yourself with your name and where you are from (such as branch or forum).
  • The Chair of Congress will then let you know how long you have to speak. Look out for the red light on the podium as that tells you when your time is up.
  • Be factual, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want others to hear - remember Congress webcasts are accessible to the public.
  • If you feel like your point has already been made by others earlier in the queue, please leave the queue and give others the chance to speak.
  • The speaker queue will be cleared at the end of each debate.

How long is each debate?

The Chair of Congress is responsible for the timings of debates. Each debate runs for a maximum of 25 minutes, but the Chair and may decide to amend the timings of the debates if appropriate.

The proposer has five minutes to introduce the debate from their perspective. Resolutions are seconded with a two-minute supporting statement.

Speakers are then given two minutes each to put forward their opinions.

The proposer returns to close the discussion after which the vote is held.

New to Congress?

If you are a first-time attendee, a first-time speaker, or simply need a bit of encouragement to approach the microphone, then come and speak to the agenda committee. They have all faced their first moment at the microphone, and know all there is to know about Congress so will be able to answer any questions you may have?

What gets debated

To get a flavour of Congress take a look at previous debates

Who gets to vote?

Votes are distributed proportionately between the branches, forums and the UK Representative committees. These ensures that votes cast at Congress properly represent the views of the entire membership of the RCN.

Branches and forums are allocated one voting member per 1,000 members. Each representative committee (Students, Nursing Support Workers, Stewards, Safety Reps and Learning reps) are allocated 7 voting places each.

Become a voting member

Application for voting members for Congress 2020 has now closed. We have had over 1800 members apply – the highest number ever. Thank you for putting yourself forward.

What happens next

Voting members will now be selected by the committee members from each branch and forum. They take into account:

• whether members have been active in the branch/forum or would be interested in becoming active.
• how many days the member is able to attend Congress 
• how many days the member is willing and able to vote
• how many years has the member previously attended Congress
• how many years has the member previously received funding to attend Congress
• whether they are willing to meet with branch or forum committee members to discuss the agenda, before and after Congress, in order to provide feedback

Branch committee members are accountable to their Board for their selections, and forum committee members are accountable to the Forums Governance Group.

Selection of voting members will take place from mid-December to the end of January. Applicants will be informed whether or not they have been successful from early February

Voting member responsibilities

As a voting member you are funded to attend the debating sessions at Congress and must be seated in the allocated spaces at the front of the auditorium. You then vote on the resolutions on behalf of your branch, forum, or your representative committee. As a voting member you have specific responsibilities. These are outlined in the attached document which you should read before applying.

Funding for Voting members

As a voting member we will fund your travel to and from Congress, and your accommodation. We will also provide you with a lunch voucher towards the cost of your lunch at the venue. Meal expenses can be claimed for nights where food is not provided for you as part of the social programme. Your travel and accommodation will be arranged by either your country/regional office if you are voting on behalf of a branch. Or by the RCN’s Nursing Department, if you are voting on behalf of a forum. 

Download our expenses guidance for Congress 2020

Points of order

Points of order are raised to challenge the conduct of a meeting or to seek clarification from the chair about an item. Any member can raise a point of order using the card provided in their delegate pack.

Procedural items

Procedural items are usually to request that:

  • Congress moves on to the next items of business
  • the vote is taken
  • the debate is adjourned
  • the agenda item is referred to Council for further consideration
  • the order of agenda items is changed.

A vote must take place and be passed by a majority for any of the above to happen. Only voting members may raise a procedural item using the card provided in their delegate pack, and, should a vote be required, only these members may vote. Again, it is important that voting members sit within their allocated voting area as votes cast outside this area will not be counted.

Substituting voting members

If a voting member cannot attend a session it is possible for a non-voting member from the same entity to take the vote instead. Both members should go to the registration desk before the session to make the necessary arrangements with staff.

Policy and process

To find out more about the rules of Congress please see the Congress policy and process document


Agenda committee members


BJ Waltho, Chair of Congress

With more than 35 years’ experience as a qualified nurse, BJ is Associate Director of Operations for the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She was previously Programme Manager for Emergency Services Collaborative and Improvement Services for Hospitals and has experience in managing outpatient services.

BJ chaired her local branch in Dorset for many years and she received an RCN Award of Merit in 2006. BJ has been a member of the Agenda Committee since 2011, and was elected Vice Chair of Congress in 2014 and Chair of Congress in 2018.

Michael Brown, Vice Chair of Congress

Michael works as a nursing workforce manager at NHS Ayrshire and Arran and previously worked within acute and rehabilitation stroke care. He is an accredited RCN steward and safety representative. 

In 2009 Michael was elected to the Scottish seat on RCN Council and was elected Chair of RCN Council in 2013. He was elected Vice Chair of Congress in 2018.

Vicky Keir

Vicky is a mental health nurse with 25 years of frontline experience. She is a registered RCN Steward and Safety Representative, and has held a number of committee positions on the RCN Dumfries & Galloway branch. Vicky was elected to the agenda committee in 2019.

Phil Noyes

Phil is a mental health and learning disability nurse with 35 years of experience. He is an active RCN member and has held positions on the Coventry and Warwickshire branch committee, the RCN West Midlands Board, and on the RCN UK Stewards Committee. Phil was elected to the agenda committee in 2019.

Samantha Spence

Samantha is a children’s nurse and health visitor in London. She is an RCN Learning Representative and active within her branch. She was first elected to the agenda committee in 2017, and was re-elected in 2019.

Colleen White

Colleen is a nurse based in Northern Ireland with experience across stroke rehabilitation, theatres, outpatients and endoscopy. She has been an active member of the RCN Southern branch for more than a decade, and is currently the branch secretary. Colleen was elected to the agenda committee in 2019.

Fringe events are a great opportunity for personal and professional development and can count towards NMC revalidation requirements.

All delegates can attend any of the learning events (fringe) taking place at Congress. In addition to these, we also provide health and wellbeing events, and social and networking events.

There are a selection of seminars to choose from – these cover a broad range of specialist areas of practice, workplace issues, health and well-being and networking, and give you the chance to share knowledge and innovations. Other events are tailored specifically for health care support workers or students.

These sessions are scheduled to fit in around the debates so that you can fit as much as possible into your time in Liverpool. They take place before the morning debates, during th elunch break, and in the late afternoon/early evening.

See what happened at Congress 2019 here.

You can view the agenda and highlights from previous debates. 

Congress agenda 2020

The agenda for Congress 2020 is now live. Find out more about the debates and matters for discussion.

Book your Congress 2020 place

Booking is now open for Congress 2020.

Book your place

Page last updated - 20/02/2020