NURSE, midwives and paramedics in Swindon will be among more than 400,000 NHS workers across England to be balloted on industrial action over pay.

Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, GMB and Unite announced its members would be asked to vote between August 28 and September 18 on whether to take action and potentially strike in response to what they saw as an unfair pay deal proposed by the Government.

Ministers gave NHS staff a one per cent salary increase as part of the plans, but this bump does not apply to employees who get automatic progression-in-the-job rises.

The move was heavily criticised by unions as it went against the recommendation of the independent pay review board, which had called for an across-the-board rise.

Unison said a decision ‘to deny’ 60 per cent of NHS staff and 70 per cent of nurses a pay rise for the next two years was unacceptable.

Christina McAnea, Unison head of health, said: “Balloting for strike action is not an easy decision – especially in the NHS.

“But this Government is showing complete contempt for NHS workers. It has swept aside the Pay Review Body’s recommendations and ignored the union’s call for a fair deal. Our members are angry at the way they are being treated and we are left with little choice but to ballot for action.

“We hope to work closely with the other health unions to plan and coordinate action.

“It is not too late, however, for Jeremy Hunt to agree to further talks, without pre-conditions, to settle the dispute.”

The Department of Health said it could not afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases without risking frontline jobs.

Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “I know trade unions don’t intend to distress patients when talking about strikes, but it does distress them.

“It’s not fair on them yet they will bear the brunt of any industrial action.

“I understand the frustration and anger staff and trade unions feel after a prolonged period of pay restraint and the decision not to fully implement the pay review body recommendations.

“They are clearly annoyed at the government and I understand they will want to protest. But timing ballots and industrial action for the busy winter period is bound to impact on care.

“This is a critical time when a union campaign risks a prolonged period of real distress for patients this winter. Employers will do all they can to maximise patent safety and emergency care.

“I urge and plead with the unions to take patients out of the dispute and instead focus on meaningful discussions to find a sustainable way out of pay restraint.

“Let’s explore longer term deals, protect those on lower pay and the living wage.

“The NHS has enjoyed good relations between trade unions and employers and I want that to continue. We need more discussion not more disruption.”