Expert advice

Workforce: What can we learn from the ‘pay pendulum’ of decades ago?

Since the mid-1980s, the Pay Review Body has been fairly successful in keeping nurse pay on an even keel, but it’s clear the system now needs fixing, says workforce expert James Buchan

As NHS nurses consider their response to the new pay offer , it is worth reflecting on the bad old days of nurses’ pay determination.

Before the Pay Review Body (RB) was established in the mid-1980s, the history of nurses’ pay made for sorry reading.

With negotiations at national level between unions and the Department of Health –and the Treasury playing a shadowy but influential role in holding down pay rises – for many years the process did nurses no favours. The result was frequent recourse to arbitration to settle pay disputes.

There were four one-off reviews of NHS nurses’ pay in the 1960s, and two further independent reviews in the 1970s. These were essentially


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