Last-ditch pay talks between unions and the government were held this week in an attempt to avert strike action across England.

The meeting of the NHS staff executive council on Tuesday is likely to determine whether unions take industrial action over a staged pay offer of 2.5 per cent.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, workers have received the unphased pay offer in full, in line with recommendations by the pay review body.

But in England this was reduced to a 1.5 per cent pay rise in April followed by a further 1 per cent in November.

Unite head of health Kevin Coyne said he would be rejecting the offer outright.

'It is unacceptable that workers in England should be treated differently and contrary to the Pay Review Body's recommendation,' he said.

Earlier talks have ended in deadlock, but NHS Employers was hopeful that Tuesday's meeting would lead to some agreement between the Department of Health, NHS Employers and unions including Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Nursing.

No agreement had been reached as HSJ went to press. It is understood that in the event of the government refusing to back down, unions will move to formal discussions about industrial action.