Union leaders are urging 'significant' pay rises for nurses to help tackle the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, insisting that current pay gaps between NHS staff and other public sector workers, such as police and teachers, are reduced.

Maggie Dunn from the staff side of the nursing and midwifery staffs negotiating council said: 'It is essential that previous pay awards are built on in order to both recruit new nurses, midwives and health visitors and to keep the ones we have.'

The government has said it wants the pay review body to recommend 'fair' increases, including a pay boost to support workers, as well as incentives to encourage unqualified staff to develop their careers through education. It also wants to see increases for matrons and a rise in the minimum threshold of pay for nurse consultants.

The NHS Confederation's evidence to the review body is due in the next few days.