The Royal College of Nursing could accept a pay rise of around 10% to end its ongoing dispute with the government, its chief has said.

The union had initially demanded an increase of 19% to cover soaring inflation and falls in real term wages over the past decade.

But speaking to Times Radio, union boss Pat Cullen said she would be willing to “meet the government halfway”.

Sky News understands the figure of around 10% is correct.

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Members of the RCN voted to take industrial action back in November – the first national strike by the union in its 106-year history.

They said low pay was “pushing nursing staff out of the profession and putting patient care at risk”, and called for the double-figure wage rise, along with improvements to working conditions.

But the government has continually refused to re-open negotiations when it comes to pay, saying it was right to stick to the recommendation of the independent pay review body of around 4% when public finances are struggling.

Two strike days took place in December, with two further walkouts set to take place on 18 and 19 January.

Ms Cullen told a Times Radio podcast that nurses “understand the economic climate that we’re working in” so were willing to compromise.

“There is a rhetoric out there that says the Royal College of Nursing is unrealistic, it’s looking for something that’s totally unachievable, it’s looking for 19%,” she said.

“Now I could sit here all day and tell you nurses’ pay has dropped by 20% over the last decade. Do I believe those nurses are entitled [to 19%]? Absolutely, I believe they’re entitled to 19%. But we also understand the economic climate that we’re working in.

“And what I would say to [health secretary] Steve Barclay and to the prime minister is get into a room and meet me halfway here and do the decent thing for these nurses.”

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