A ballot of Unison members on the government’s NHS pension reform plan has failed to deliver a clear verdict, the union has announced.

Members were almost evenly split with 50.4 per cent voting to reject the pensions deal and 49.5 per cent voting to accept the offer.

The turnout was low with just 14.8 per cent of the eligible 373,000 members voting.

The result fails to deliver the “clear rejection” the union had said it would need to take sustained industrial action.

Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea, who had urged members to deliver a clear verdict during the union’s health conference in Brighton last week, said the result was disappointing.

She said: “The low turnout coupled with the close vote shows there is no mandate to endorse the pensions’ proposals, but equally no mandate to take further industrial action.

“We need to consider the next steps in the pensions campaign and we will be talking to the other health unions.”

She said the turnout was “disappointing” but “reflects the low morale and current difficult state of the NHS”. She said members’ morale was low due to the pay freeze, job cuts, poorer terms and conditions and the Health Act.

The Unite union has announced industrial action on 10 May after its members voted by 94 to six per cent to reject the government’s offer. The union’s turnout was 24.6 per cent.

The Royal College of Nursing achieved a turnout of 16.9 per cent in February, with 62 per cent voting to reject the deal and 37 per cent voted to accept it.

The British Medical Association is due to ballot its members later this month on whether they want to take industrial action for the first time since 1975.