The threat of industrial action by health workers over pay will come closer this week amid public support for higher wages in the NHS.

Delegates at Unison’s annual health conference in Brighton on Tuesday will debate the government’s decision not to award an across the board 1 per cent pay rise, as recommended by the NHS review body.

Only staff who do not receive an incremental increase will be awarded the 1% rise, a proposal which has sparked anger among health workers.

The conference will debate calls for a campaign of industrial action in protest at the decision.

Unison published an opinion poll of more than 2,000 members of the public, which showed support for nurses to be paid £26,120 as a basic annual starting salary, around £5,000 more than they currently get.

Well over half of those surveyed said nurses should get more than they are currently paid.

Unison’s head of health, Christina McAnea, said: “The poll shows how out of step the government is with public opinion. It is clear the public values the work of nurses more than the government.

“Their provocative pay offer denies a pay rise to a majority of NHS workers and has created a lot of anger among NHS staff.

“Pay in the NHS has essentially been cut by at least 10% since the start of the coalition. It is time the government gave nurses and health workers a fair deal.”