NURSES have reacted angrily after ministers refused to agree an across the board wage rise in the NHS.

Unions have accused ministers of ‘taking a scalpel’ to pay and plunging morale to new levels, with some warning of industrial action in the coming months.

The recommended increase of one per cent will be given to some staff from April, but an estimated 600,000 health workers in England will only receive their normal incremental pay rise.

The same approach will be taken next year, leading unions to warn that NHS workers faced another two years of below-inflation pay increases.

Steve Flanagan, the Royal College of Nursing’s regional director, who represents staff at East Lancashire’s main hospitals and mental health service, said the decision ignores the recommendation of an independent pay review body for NHS staff.

He said: “Nurses across the North West will be angry at this announcement. NHS staff in the region are being told to be grateful, while their contractually-agreed terms of employment are torn up.

“North West nurses accepted in 2010 that the NHS needed to make efficiency savings. Four years on, having kept the NHS afloat through one reorganisation after another and despite the economic situation improving, they are still being asked to bear the burden of financial mismanagement which they weren’t responsible for.

“In Scotland both the current and previous governments provided this small pay increase, showing they value patient care.”

Unite said it will consult its 100,000 NHS members about the possibility of industrial action, while Unison and the GMB refused to rule out similar moves.

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt said implementing the pay body's recommendations in England would be ‘unaffordable and would risk the quality of patient care’. He said about 6,000 nursing jobs would have had to be cut if everyone in the NHS had got the one per cent rise.