A crucial meeting between unions and NHS employers is expected to pave the way towards a resolution of the long-running pay dispute, which has led to numerous strikes.

The NHS Staff Council will today hear reports from unions to decide whether to accept the government’s offer of a 5% pay rise and cash sum for last year.

Having recently balloted hundreds of thousands of health workers, members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite on Monday rejected the offer, with other unions, including Unison and GMB, accepting the offer.

If accepted by the Health Department today, it would be a key step forward in the government implementing the pay rise to all health workers covered by the agreement, including members of the RCN and Unite.

It comes on the same day that members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England will stage a 24-hour strike, in a continuing dispute over pay.

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Health Secretary Steve Barclay said on Monday that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the council will vote in favour of the deal, but the RCN is already pressing ahead with a fresh ballot – regardless of the council’s decision.

“We will continue to lose a day’s pay standing on picket lines for our patients so that’s how important it is to them and they want to have their voice heard,” said Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary.

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“How are they going to have their voice heard and have this brought to a conclusion without the Secretary of State getting into a room and starting to negotiate again with me.”

She warned that members could be forced out onto picket lines right up until Christmas if the government does not address the nursing crisis.

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Nurses’ strikes could last ‘until Xmas’

As discussions within the council take place, Unite members at South Central, South East Coast and West Midlands ambulance trusts alongside workers at Christies NHS Foundation Trust, Christies Pathology Partnership, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust will all take part in industrial action.

Onay Kasab, Unite national officer, said the government’s offer does not go far enough to address “massive problems facing the NHS due to overworked and underpaid workers”.

The government is also being urged to hold fresh talks with the NEU to avoid any more classroom closures, which force parents to keep their children at home.

Staff at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) including members of Unison, Unite and the Public and Commercial Services union will also walk out today, including those working in inspection teams, call centres and data analysis.

Members voted to strike after they received a pay increase of between 2.75% and 3.5%, and a one-off payment of £100 or £150 in December, depending on their salary, an offer leaders said does not “reflect its essential work”.