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Nurses' Pay Structure Affects Health Outcomes

11 June 2010

Joint research on the medical effects of nurses’ pay structure by Bristol’s Carol Propper (Economics Department and the CMPO) and John Van Reenen (London School of Economics) has been published in the prestigious Journal of Political Economy and attracted further media attention.

Joint research on the medical effects of nurses’ pay structure by Bristol’s Carol Propper (Economics Department and the CMPO) and John Van Reenen (London School of Economics) has been published in the prestigious Journal of Political Economy and attracted further media attention.

Because nurses’ pay rates are centrally negotiated, hospitals in prosperous areas (like inner London) encounter recruitment difficulties not found in less prosperous areas (like the North East). As a result hospitals in prosperous areas treat fewer patients and have worse results than those in poorer areas. The research found that for every extra 10 per cent the local private sector workers earn, there is a 7% increase in deaths following emergency heart attack (Acute Myocardial Infarction or AMI) admissions. The results imply that, of the 12,500 people who died of heart attacks per year between 1997 and 2005, 400 could still be alive if nurses in rich areas were paid more and those in poor areas were paid less.

Carol discusses the effects of nurses' centralized pay setting in this CMPO podcast interview.

The research was covered in the Times on Line and more recently in the Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph’s medical editor, Rebecca Smith summarizes the research in these terms: ‘A lack of experienced NHS nurses and high staff turnover in affluent areas is costing lives’.