Last week the Bank of England cut interest rates to 2% amid speculation that prices would fall next year as the credit crunch takes hold.
Josie Irwin, RCN head of employment relations, gave evidence last week to the NHS pay review body in a bid to get the current deal, worth nearly 8% over three years, improved.
But she said that any attempt to get the PRB to recommend an improvement to the deal would be ‘challenging’.
The government is expected to go before the PRB this week, when it is likely to argue that nurses and healthcare staff are in a better position than many other workers.
Ms Irwin said: ‘We are in recession and are expecting strong evidence from the employers and government saying that salaries in the NHS look healthy compared with those of workers in other sectors.
‘The economic situation makes the process more challenging and we have to be realistic.’
Health visitors and community nurses worked to rule last Wednesday in a day of industrial action against the three-year pay deal, which they say has already been overtaken by inflation. The Unite members ignored all non-essential paperwork, emails and telephone calls.