Today we’re celebrating International Nurses’ Day, which highlights the hard work which nurses carry out every day around the world. Within our collections we have a series of five reports produced by committees to help improve the salary scales for nurses in the UK during the 1940s (reference number CO3/16/77/6-10 and CO3/66/17/14).

The Scottish Nurses’ Salaries Committee was also created in October 1941 by the Secretary of State with the aim to revise the salary scales and emoluments for State registered nurses in Scottish hospitals. This included mental hospitals as well as student nurses in hospitals approved as training schools by the General Nursing Council for Scotland. At the same time a committee had been established by the Ministry of Health to carry out a similar task for nurses working in England and Wales. Due to the similarities of their references, the two committees often worked closely together, sharing committee minutes and correspondence to discuss these issues.

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Scottish Nurses Salaries Committee Fifth Report (CO3/66/17/14) pages 7-8: Conditions for nurses’ placing on salary scales

A sub-committee was established in November 1942 in association with the Nurses’ Salaries Committee in order to review the salary scales and conditions of service for nurses in Scottish mental hospitals and institutions. Two reports for nurses working in these hospitals were published in 1943 and 1945, with the second report discussing members of staff who were not matrons or other senior members of staff. 3,500 men and women in Scotland filled this capacity, making up a large portion of the nurses who worked within these hospitals. The scales for these nurses were recommended to be higher than those for other nurses which had been set out in earlier reports, as it had been agreed that due to the more demanding nature of the work which these nurses undertook, their salaries needed to reflect this and so were set as higher than others in the nursing field.

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Report of the Mental Nurses Sub-Committee of the Scottish Nurses’ Salaries Committee (CO3/66/17/8): Salary scales for male and female nurses

Throughout all these reports there were conditions of service attached to the salary scales, such as the number of hours a nurse had to work per week, how they received overtime, the number of days they were entitled to annual leave, and any basic charges for board, lodgings and laundry.  War service is also mentioned within the reports. Some nurses who had completed war service would have received credit from provisions of the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act, however for those who would not be covered by this, the Fifth Report states that credit should be given to nurses for service in the Armed Forces, the Civil Nursing Reserve, in industry or the Civil Defence Services.

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Scottish Nurses Salaries Committee Fifth Report (CO3/66/17/14) pages 10-11: Terms for credit to be awarded to nurses who served during the war

This provides an insight into the decisions made on nurses’ salaries and the differences within the nursing profession. They also show how the work of nurses in different institutions was valued, with this being reflected in their pay.