Three days of discussions between Unison, NHS Employers and the government have failed to resolve the issue of pay.
Unison say the lack of agreement has brought the prospect of industrial action even closer.
Mike Jackson at Unison said: “Health workers feel a strong sense of injustice that the government has welched on a deal and is trying to impose a pay award that represents a pay cut in real terms.”
The government’s decision to stage the 2.5% pay reward has provoked real anger among nurses, paramedics, therapists and other health staff, he says.
Staging the pay reward is said to reduce its value well below the level of inflation.
Scotland, Wales and Ireland have already installed an unstaged pay award for their healthcare staff.
Mr Jackson says the English government is “obstinately refusing to take any action.”
Unison’s Health Service Executive will meet on 25 July to decide whether an industrial action ballot is the way forward.
Related article: Row over pay for NHS workers