• Pay demands would cost £2.5bn, which unions say should be provided by Treasury
  • It comes after ministers agreed to give pay rises to police and prison officers
  • Nurses will be balloted on taking industrial action unless 1 per cent pay cap is dropped

Fourteen unions representing nurses and other NHS staff have demanded a 3.9 per cent pay rise, plus a one off payment of £800 per employee.

The unions, including Unison and the Royal College of Nursing members, which represent more than 1 million workers, estimate this would cost £2.5bn. They said the money should be provided by the Treasury rather than coming from existing NHS budgets.

They said the one off payment would “restore some of the pay lost over the past seven years”.

The NHS has been subject to the government’s pay restraint policy for public sector workers since 2010, which involved pay freezes at the start of the decade and more recently increases capped at 1 per cent.

The demand comes after ministers agreed to give police officers a 1 per cent rise plus a 1 per cent bonus, with prison officers getting a 1.7 per cent rise, which will be funded from existing budgets.

The health unions, which represent nurses, midwives, cleaners, porters, pharmacists, paramedics and dental technicians, said this still represented a pay cut.

Nurses will be balloted on taking industrial action unless the 1 per cent pay cap is dropped, the RCN said.

Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “Health workers have gone without a proper pay rise for far too long. Their wages continue to fall behind inflation as food and fuel bills, housing and transport costs rise.

“Continuing with the pay cap will further damage services – and that affects us all. The government must give the NHS the cash it needs so its entire workforce gets a decent rise, without the need for more services to be cut.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the 1 per cent pay cap is unsustainable but warned any attempt by the government to make the service meet the cost of any pay increase would be a “disaster”.

A government spokeswoman said next year’s pay award would be “discussed and agreed” as part of the budget process in the autumn and through the official pay review bodies, and would be “set out in due course”.

Earlier this year, the NHS Pay Review Body recommended a 1 per cent pay rise for Agenda for Change staff in 2017-18 but it was effectively bound by the government’s policy.

In an unusual move, the PRB warned time was running out for the policy, saying: “Our judgement is that we are approaching the point when the current pay policy will require some modification, and greater flexibility, within the NHS.”