The Royal College of Nursing has decided not to ballot members for industrial action at present, but has warned it could do so if pensions talks fail.
The RCN held a special meeting of its ruling council on Friday to decide how to respond to the government’s attempts to change the NHS pension scheme.
The changes would raise the retirement age to 66 by 2026 and force staff to pay more towards their pensions.
Having asked for feedback from members, the council agreed the RCN would not ballot immediately on industrial action, unlike unions such as Unite and Unison, which have already decided to do so.
But RCN council chair Sandra James also said balloting was “inevitable if negotiations with the government don’t provide a fair outcome for our members”.
Talks on public sector pensions between unions and the Department of Health and Treasury are ongoing.
The council also said it would support the “day of action” on 30 November being planned by the Trades Union Congress to oppose the changes.
Ms James added: “Council members have heard from thousands of nursing staff from across the UK, and are aware that anger levels are rising as nurses are hit from all sides.
“Not only are they dealing with rising living costs, a pay freeze and attacks on their pensions, but they are also dealing with a situation where they are overstretched and very worried about patient care.”
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “Nurses and healthcare assistants are the lifeblood of the NHS, and they are angry.
“Their pensions have already been reformed, and are far from generous. Targeting them now is unjust and unnecessary.
“The average woman with an NHS pension takes home less than £4,000 a year – not exactly gold plated,” he said.
“Council has decided that the RCN will support colleagues on 30 November to express their anger. The RCN will be ready to ballot if this anger is not heard as we approach the end of the negotiations.”