What makes a good Congress agenda item?

An engaging topic at Congress can mean the difference between long queues to speak or a quick snooze for delegates. So what makes a stimulating debate and how can you ensure that your issue gets members talking ?

When thinking about a potential agenda item topic, you should aim for it to be all, or at least some, of the following...

Topical and current

A useful tool is PEST analysis. Think about your item with:

  • Political factors - E.g. Is it something affected by the change in government or is new legislation needed?
  • Economic factors - E.g. Is the current economic situation impacting on it with direct or indirect cuts? Is it in need of protection?
  • Sociocultural factors - E.g. Is a certain section of society affected? Perhaps age, gender, religion, race or sexuality is acting as a barrier?
  • Technological factors - E.g. Has new technology affected practice for better or for worse?

Relevant with broad appeal

If your topic is too narrow it will not engage enough delegates. The more people who have an interest the more valuable the debate will be.

A new or emerging issue, or a new angle on an existing issue

New topics are well placed to stimulate debate and existing issues can develop and throw up new challenges.

Both nursing topics and workplace issues can provide a rich source of content.

Something where members' views could make a real difference

There are certain issues where people are keen to hear the nursing voice. The public has an interest in what we have to say and are prepared to take notice of our views and opinions.

Possible to achieve and not already happening

Be realistic about what you want to debate. It's more valuable to debate something where our resulting actions can make a difference. One nurse for every patient may be your dream, but safe staffing on the ward is a more realistic goal. It's up to you to check action hasn't already taken place.

Have a four-country perspective

National uniforms for everyone! While nursing staff in England's ears might prick with interest, members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be quick to point out that they already have national uniforms. But that's not to say a uniform debate is off the table. Members from the three countries could contribute to a debate by sharing their experiences.

Not recently debated at Congress

Double check that your topic hasn't already debated recently.

Other factors

Does it fit in with the RCN’s overall goals or priorities? Have a look through the RCN website and see if anything there sparks off an idea.  

Think about how the media will receive your item, or whether it is likely to generate interest on social media:

  • has it stimulated debate before, or is it likely to generate interest in the future?
  • is it current?
  • is it relevant to the public?
  • does it affect people's lives?
  • will it affect how people see nursing or the RCN?

Resolution or matter for discussion?

It is important to get the right wording for your item – make sure you are clear and concise.


Resolutions ask Congress to decide something and often includes a call for action. They use words such as ‘ask’, ‘decide’, ‘calls on’ or ‘shows support’. For example:

  • That this meeting of RCN Congress asks Council to lobby…
  • That this meeting of RCN Congress decides to…
  • That RCN Congress calls on governments to change…
  • That RCN Congress shows support for…

Matter for discussion

Matters for discussion are requests for a discussion about an issue. Wording uses terms such as ‘discusses’, ‘reflects on’ or ‘considers. For example:

  • That this meeting of RCN Congress discusses…
  • That this meeting of RCN Congress reflects on…
  • That RCN Congress considers…

Is your item competent?

By competent we mean have you answered all the questions on the form correctly and made sure that you have supplied the relevant information. Unfortunately many items are rejected by the Agenda Committee because they are not competent – examples of why items are rejected include:

  • There is no supporting information provided – supporting information is crucial as it provides the Agenda Committee with the background and context to why you consider the item to be important
  • The wording of the resolution or matter for discussion is not clear or too “woolly” – make sure your wording is crystal clear, short and succinct.
  • No-one has authorised the item – your item must be authorised by an officer from the entity which is submitting it. In other words:
    • the chair, vice chair, secretary, convenor or treasurer of a branch
    • a forum committee member
    • the chair or vice chair of the UK Stewards’ Committee, UK Safety Representatives’ Committee or UK Learning Representatives’ Committee
    • the chair or vice chair of the RCN Students’ Committee, or the student member of Council
    • the chair and vice chair of the Nursing Support Workers Committee or the Nursing Support Worker members of Council
    • a board chair or vice chair
    • the Chair or Vice Chair of Council, or the Chair or Vice Chair of the Professional Nursing Committee, or Trade Union Committee.

Debates from previous Congresses

Find out which topics have been debated at previous RCN Congresses.

Page last updated - 09/04/2021