The general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing has told ITV News that Chancellor George Osborne said it was "affordable" to give NHS staff a 1% pay rise in this year's spending review.
Dr Peter Carter added that the Government was "emotionally blackmailing hardworking staff".
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has told ITV News he backed public service pay restraint but blamed the Government's NHS reorganisation for draining funds that could have been used to pay for the rise.
Doctors fully recognise the economic constraints the NHS is facing, the chairman of the BMA Council told the Guardian, after the Department of Health announced that it wants to call a halt to the planned 1% pay rise.
Mark Porter added: "[For] the Government to imply that unless NHS staff endure what is effectively another year of pay cuts they will put patient safety at risk is insulting at best, given doctors are working harder than ever before and have borne the brunt of the Government's efficiency drive."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said no decisions had been made on whether funding allocated for a 1% pay rise would be used to modernise NHS pay structures, but stressed the plans would help "protect jobs and improve care".
Under the current pay structures, staff automatically receive incremental rises by going up different pay grades. The spokesperson said:
Many NHS staff have continued to receive pay rises of up to 6% and we want to keep working with the trade unions and employers on affordable pay.
The measures we are proposing will help increase quality for patients and help us realise our vision of an affordable seven-day service.
The head of health at the union Unite has hit out at Department of Health plans to halt the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff this year. Speaking to the Guardian, she accused Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of "trying to emotionally blackmail staff to sacrifice their pay." She said:
Jeremy Hunt is responsible for either undermining the Treasury position or trying to act in an even more draconian way than the Treasury with regards to staff who work across the NHS.
He blames the staff on a regular basis; now he wants to further cut their terms and conditions.
In its submission to the NHS pay review body, the Department of Health said the NHS is facing the biggest financial challenge in its history, and was facing a "stark choice" as pay rises could have an impact on safe staffing levels.
[It can] either pay staff more, accepting that this may do little to improve the quality of care for patients and is likely to restrict the number of staff employers can afford to employ, or, to reform contracts to enable employers to use their pay bill, as part of their overall employment offer, to maintain safe staffing levels, with stronger links to performance, quality and productivity.
The Government's view, therefore, remains that basic pay increases should only be implemented if there is strong evidence that recruitment, retention, morale or motivation issues require this.
The Department of Health has said it wants to halt NHS pay rises, prompting anger from the unions. The department wants to spent the money set aside for a 1% pay rise for staff on a modernisation of pay structures.