Unions representing about 750,000 NHS workers refused to rule out strike action yesterday in a row over pay.

Fourteen trade unions and staff associations joined forces to condemn the Government’s proposal for a below-inflation 1.5 per cent rise for staff.

The unions submitted their evidence yesterday to the independent Nurses and Other Health Professions Review Body (NOHPRB) calling for a higher rise to reflect staff commitments and hard work across the NHS.

Unions including the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives and Unison said strike action would not be ruled out, such as if the situation arose where the Government chose to ignore the recommendations of the independent pay review bodies.

Jon Skewes, from the RCM, said: "I don’t think any of us ever rule out the possibility of industrial action but we are not here today threatening anybody with industrial action."

He said the unions were looking for the pay review body to do "exactly what it says on the tin" and make a decision independent of any pressure from the Government.

Dr Beverly Malone, general secretary of the RCN, said: "It would be a last resort for nurses to use industrial action but it’s not to be ruled out."

The Department of Health has warned that pay rises have to be affordable and said a 1.5 per cent uplift would deliver a four per cent increase in average earnings, which compares with the current average across the whole economy.