Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told ITV News 6,000 nurses could potentially lose their jobs if all health workers receive the recommended 1% pay rise.
Mr Hunt told ITV News Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship: "The reality that is if we give hospitals pay bills that they can't meet they'll only have one alternative, and that's to lay off nurses.
"The numbers show that potentially 6,000 nurses would be laid off if we accepted the pay review body's recommendations, and that's not a risk I'm prepared to take for patients."
The Health Secretary has explained the NHS 1% pay rise awarded to half of staff today is non-consolidated, which means wages will go back down at the end of the year. This is not the case for the rest of the public sector.
Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship has tweeted:
Jeremy Hunt statement says NHS 1% pay rise (for half of workers) is NON-CONSOLIDATED. So wages go back down at the end of the year
We support pay restraint, including in the NHS, but it’s unfair for NHS staff to be singled out in this way.
The Pay Review Body has looked carefully at the issue and the Government should not have rejected its advice and gone further than a one per cent cap, which the Chancellor himself announced.
– Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham
If David Cameron hadn’t wasted £3 billion on a reorganisation nobody wanted, the NHS would have a much better financial outlook than it has today.
His reorganisation resulted in six-figure pay-offs for thousands of senior managers and pay cuts for nurses.
That is the reality of the NHS under David Cameron.
ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship has tweeted:
Health Sec Jeremy Hunt says the Pay Review Body recommendation of 1% for all NHS staff was "unaffordable" & risked "quality of patient care"
Josie Irwin, from the Royal College of Nursing, told ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship that nurses will be "very, very angry" over today's announced pay deal and would not rule out taking industrial action over the issue.
Two unions representing health workers have raised the possibility of industrial action over the government's pay award announced today.
600,000 NHS staff will not get the 1% pay rise announced this morning.
The Treasury says those staff have had wage rises due to the pay progression scheme, which recognises new skills or improved performance. It will save the Department of Health £200 million in 2014-15.
Unions say that is a "divisive" measure which shows "compete contempt" for NHS staff.
Both Unite - the country's largest union - and Unison - which represents many health workers - say they plan to consult their members and will ask if they want to consider taking industrial action.
Even the Royal College of Nursing, which does not usually take industrial action, would not rule out doing so.
The RCN told ITV News that the pay award is "incredibly divisive" and nurses will be "very, very angry."
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has told ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship the government's pay deal to public sector workers is a "right, fair balance".
It was announced today that public sector workers will receive a one per cent increase to their pay, apart from those who already receive "progresson-in-job" increases due their length of service. These increases are typically worth more than three per cent.
The Unite union says it will be consulting its health service members on possible industrial action following the Government's refusal to sanction the recommended one per cent pay rise for all NHS staff.
Unite said the Health Secretary’s decision to accept the recommendation of the independent Pay Review Body, for only those not receiving annual increments, was a "divide and rule" tactic and will see about 45 per cent of the NHS workforce getting no cost of living pay increase at all from April 1.
Rachael Maskell, of Unite, said: “Jeremy Hunt has adopted a divide and rule tactic which calls into serious question the relevance of the so-called independent PRB.
“He is deliberately muddying the waters by trying to imply that the annual increment that staff receive, as they gain more skills to benefit patients throughout their careers, is part of the annual pay increase – it is not. It is despicable that Hunt has adopted such an underhand tactic."
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said the Government needs to continue with "public sector pay restraint" to rectify the nation's finances.
– Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander
Public sector workers make a vital contribution to the effective delivery of public services. We need to continue with public sector pay restraint in order to put the nation’s finances back on a sustainable footing.
We are delivering on our commitment to a one per cent pay rise for all except some of the most senior public sector workers.