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."
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