What is an ‘Independent Pay Review Body’ and who do they really represent?

If you look up the Wikipedia Entry for “Pay Review Body” the definition is very interesting. It reads… “A Review […]

Tom Lennard
19 December 2017

If you look up the Wikipedia Entry for “Pay Review Body” the definition is very interesting. It reads…

“A Review Body in the United Kingdom is a government mechanism to replace collective bargaining for certain groups of employees in the public sector, for example, doctors and nurses in the National Health Service”.


And there’s the rub: In the United Kingdom, nurses do not have a body that truly represents their workforce pay interests.

Perhaps, in some kind of alternative reality, the people on the NHS Pay Review Body would be nurses, perhaps doctors, or least someone with experience of the needs of a given workforce. Or there would be trade union representatives who liaised directly with the government, as part of a joint body. However, that is not the reality in which we live in.. Two economics professors sit on the panel – but not a single nurse, midwife or allied health professional.

What the Independent Pay Review Body do, is to look at the evidence for sufficient pay– speaking to governmental groups, local authorities, and unions. Then it comes up with its recommendations. This year, it could see from the Bank of England’s forecasts that inflation was set to rise by 2.7 in 2018. However, it still made the cautionary recommendation of a 1% pay rise for nurses in 2017. But why the PRB bother making any recommendation at all – seeing as the government only lifted their 1% cap on public sector pay in September – is a mystery. Their pay report came out in back in March, whilst the cap was only lifted on NHS staff in October. Essentially, it seems as if the body has created reports for the last seven years of public sector pay caps, whilst the government has had its own very clear agenda of not increasing pay for nurses.

Back when New Labour were in power during the nineties and early noughties, you would often hear about QUANGOs (Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations) or ALBs (Arm’s Length Bodies) in the media – how we should be suspicious of them and the secret power they wielded. It appears that since those days this suspicion has not resulted in any significant change to the system. However getting to the heart of the issue, nursing pay is set by conditions imposed on it by 2004’s Agenda for Change agreement, one which unions were happy to adopt (RCN, Unison and Unite’s former incarnation Amicus) It is also limited by the government and who that government consists of. Not only that, despite caps now being lifted, there have been no promises of extra funding for potential pay rises. If the government followed the unions’ advice the total NHS total pay bill would increase by £3 billion.


Some people, however, have enjoyed several recent, above inflation pay rises.

Only today the Labour Party has revealed that there are now over 100,000 vacancies across the NHS in England, more if Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are included.

The New Year may bring some joy to the nursing pay issue – but, we should be questioning the role of Pay Review Bodies, who appear to be a tool of the government that allows them to feign public sector concern.

Unless pushed, the government has no intention of bringing nurse wages up to sustainable levels.


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