THE crisis facing the Scottish NHS looks set to escalate after one of the country’s largest unions has rejected a pay deal for healthcare staff.

Unison, which represents 50,000 nurses, midwives, cleaners, porters and administrative staff, made the announcement today following a two-week consultative ballot.

It said that 61 per cent of members voted to reject the offer which was for a flat pay raise of £2205, meaning pay rises of between 5 per cent and 11 per cent.

Unison Scotland’s health committee will meet this week to discuss next steps.

The result of the ballot comes less than a week after members of the Royal College of Nursing voted in favour of strike action in protest over pay and staffing shortages for the first time in the union 106 year history.

Wilma Brown, chair of Unison Scotland’s health committee, said: “Our members have voted in their thousands and their message is loud and clear - the Scottish government’s pay offer just isn’t good enough.

“Ministers need to understand the anger of health staff who are working in an under-funded, under-staffed NHS. These are unprecedented times and NHS staff are struggling to make ends meet.

“This should be a massive wake-up call to the Scottish government. They need to come back to the negotiating table with an improved offer or prepare themselves for the first strikes in the NHS since devolution.”

Matt McLaughlin, Unison Scotland’s head of health, said: “Nobody wants to take strike action but without an improved pay offer, our members will be left with no choice.

“The ball is the Scottish Government’s court. We are calling on Humza Yousaf to come forward with an improved offer so our dedicated health workers can get on with delivering services.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “This announcement is yet another hammer-blow for this out-of-touch SNP government.

“We now face a Winter of Discontent due to the intransigence of this SNP government and their complete failure to deliver for Scotland’s key workers.

“The SNP need to get a grip before Scotland grinds to a halt. They must get back round the negotiating table as a matter of urgency.

“From hospitals to schools to our railways, the SNP’s disastrous incompetence will leave us with strike chaos and a broken Scotland.

“The people of Scotland deserve so much better than this.”

The Royal College of Nursing in Scotland last weekk threatened strike action within weeks and Unite, which represents about 1,500 Scottish Ambulance Service staff, has said that “continuous action short of strike”, including an overtime ban and work to rule, will be enforced from November 25.

Ambulance staff represented by the GMB union plan a 26-hour strike from 6am on November 28 until 7.59am the following morning.

Ministers have insisted that there is no more money to fund public sector pay rises and warned that a nurses’ strike would be “catastrophic”. 

Mr Yousaf has written to the UK health secretary to seek more money to fund the pay rises.

The Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, has called for Mr Yousaf to be sacked.

Some 6000 nursing and midwifery posts are currently unfilled in Scotland with nurses reporting staff concerns that patient safety is at risk because of insufficient staff.