The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress is the biggest event of the annual nursing calendar, with more than 4,000 nurses from all specialities and regions meeting to learn, share and develop nursing practice and influence health policy debates. This year the Congress was held in Glasgow from the 18th-21st June, Lesley and Lydia went up to run a stand at the exhibition to raise awareness of AKU and the AKU Society. In this week’s blog, we hear how they got on.

Established in 1916, the RCN describes its mission as representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice and shaping health policies. It has a network of standards and services, including a library in London and learning opportunities for nurses. It also engages in discussions regarding policies and practices which affect nursing and the healthcare sector. The RCN Congress is an annual event which all nurses can attend, to hear a wide range of speakers and debates on many different topics.

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At the AKU Society, we are passionate about increasing awareness of the condition in order to improve rates of diagnosis and the treatment available to AKU patients. We attend conferences, like the RCN Congress, since they provide a brilliant opportunity to inform health care professionals about the signs, symptoms and referral process for AKU. Lydia and Lesley were thrilled with the response they received from the nurses at the Congress, who all seemed very eager to learn about AKU.

Most of them had not heard of the condition before and were immediately interested in the condition’s unusual combination of symptoms. Lydia and Lesley were able to speak to nurses from a wide range of backgrounds, including orthopaedics, surgery, ophthalmology and mental health. Being a multisystem disease, it is important that healthcare practitioners from different specialities are aware of AKU. Several of the nurses were interested in Lesley coming in to train their colleagues about AKU too.

Lesley and Lydia also had the opportunity to explore the exhibition and meet some of the interesting companies and charities there. Lesley visited a number of stands that may be of interest to our patient group and AKU health professionals.

These included Soul-Mates, liquid orthotic insoles that mould to your own feet. Unlike foam or gel, you can’t compress a fluid, so they won’t flatten when you stand on them, the fluid simply displaces across the foot. Because it won’t compress it doesn’t need to be bulky meaning that it takes up very little room in your shoe. Lesley tried a pair out and said it was like walking on water. She bought a pair and liaised with Soul-mates to be at our next patient workshop.

Lesley also visited Focus Games who produce games for health and social care. She talked to them about options for developing a game around AKU. This could be for young people to learn about AKU when first diagnosed or even enhancing the training and development of health care professionals. Pete Moore who presented The Pain Toolkit at our International Patient Workshop joined up with Focus Games to develop an online Pain Toolkit board game. He is currently looking for people to review and provide feedback on his game and we thought something similar for AKU would be a great idea. Visithttp://www.paintoolkit.org/news/article/new-pain-toolkit-on-line-board-game  and let us know what you think

Lydia also enjoyed the opportunity to sit in on a few of the debates going on in the Congress, particularly one about the impact of the EU referendum on nursing and the healthcare profession. It was great to hear so many nurses actively engaging in wider political conversations and feeling so passionate about maintaining the best quality care for patients above all else.

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The keynote speaker for the event was Nicola Sturgeon, the current Frist Minister for Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party. She previously spent five years as health secretary and spoke from her experiences about the current challenges facing the healthcare system, including inequality and the rising demand placed on services. She argued that the priority must be to find a way to improve the quality of healthcare at a time with the demand is increasing and changing.

Overall, the Congress was a lively and interesting few days and provided a great chance to continue our work informing health care professionals about AKU