The Health Secretary Therese Coffey has told the Evening Standard that there will be no pay increase for nurses after the strike ballot.
In the explosive interview she told the paper that she felt like the government had already done enough to help NHS staff copy with the cost of living crisis, saying that ministers had 'intervened in a number of ways.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has balloted 300,000 members on whether to strike over the government's £1,400 pay rise offer. The RCN has asked for a pay rise of 5% above inflation which currently stands at 9.9%.
Asked about nurses leaving to go abroad, she said: “It is their choice of course if they want to do that, but then we also have an open route for people to come into this country who are professional staff.”
The number of nurses leaving the NHS in London has increased by 24% in just a year and a recent study published by NHS Providers found that 68% of trusts were reporting a 'significant or severe impact' from staff leaving for more highly paid jobs in retail or hospitality.
Ms Coffey told the Evening Standard that she was 'conscious of the amount of vacancies in the NHS' but that she was 'confident' that the government could increase the amount of people working in the health service.
The General Secretary and Chief Executive of the RCN, Pat Cullen, said: "This is an astonishing admission from the Health Secretary – she has already decided she won’t be listening to our half a million members. Ms Coffey has her head firmly in the sand.
“Nurses and support workers hearing this will be angry but it will make them even more determined. Members should find their ballot papers today and show the Health Secretary we have a strong voice that she cannot dismiss.
“Ignoring nursing staff is akin to ignoring patients. We have overwhelming public support for the government to do what’s fair by nursing staff and what’s needed for safe patient care.”
The RCN ballot closes on 2 November.