Current health secretary Steve Barclay has been speaking about the pay demands made by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) after their members have voted to go on strike.
He told the Sunday Telegraph that he was saddened by the potential strike action, saying it is in "nobody's best interests".
The government awarded NHS workers an additional £1,400 earlier this year, which represents a pay rise of around 4%, which Barclay says is a "balanced increase" which is "fair for nurses and the taxpayer".
However the RCN says this represents a significant fall in wages in real terms and have asked for an increase of at least 15%.
Barclay said: "The RCN is demanding a massive pay rise of 17.6%; an increase that is simply neither reasonable nor affordable. It is about three times the average settlement that millions of hard-working people, including many Sunday Telegraph readers, working outside the public sector will typically receive.
“Huge settlements like these would turbocharge inflation when we are endeavouring to keep it under control. It will have an adverse impact on people’s incomes in the long run.
“We are facing a difficult winter for our whole country and industrial action is in nobody’s best interests.”
Other unions, including Unison and the GMB, have also balloted members about potential strike action and the results will be announced before the end of November. Staff balloted include ambulance drivers, paramedics, hospital porters and cleaners.