The RCN's members have voted to accept the government's offer of a 1% consolidated pay rise for 2015-16.
In the ballot, 60% of respondents voted in favour of accepting the offer, and 40% against. The RCN will join the RCM and Unison on 9 March to discuss formally accepting the proposals. If they agree to accept the offer, the pay offer for nurses and other healthcare workers will be implemented on 1 April.
Other unions have already voted to accept the government's pay offer. Unison's members voted 67% for and 32% against the offer, while 93.9% of the RCM's membership voted yes and 6.1% voted no to accepting the proposal.
The RCN asked its members not to join Unison and the RCM in industrial action, but recommended negotiations as the most productive course of action. Unite, which also took part in industrial action over the pay freeze, has yet to return a result from its ballot of members.
Peter Carter, the RCN's chief executive, said: 'This offer falls far short of what our members deserve. It's particularly hard on more senior and specialist nurses, who are critical to the future of the NHS. They are already voting with their feet, and this underlines the importance of proper workforce planning, to ensure the NHS has the nursing staff it needs to deliver safe and effective patient care.'
The pay offer was made after several months of industrial actions and disputes between NHS unions and employers. The issue arose when Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, declined to follow the recommendations of the NHS pay review body in 2014.
Michael Brown, the chair of RCN's council, said: 'We know this offer doesn't make up for the years of pay restraint our members have endured, or for the intense pressures they face. Members may have accepted it, but that doesn't mean they're happy with it. Nor does it mean that the RCN's fight for fair pay for all nursing staff is over. We know the government is looking at how to get seven-day working [in the NHS] on the cheap, and we will do everything we can to defend the terms and conditions of our members.'
The government's offer included a consolidated 1% payment for all staff up to band 8B and an additional £200 consolidated payment for lower paid staff on pay points three to eight. The first point on the pay scale will be abolished and the second will be raised to £15,100.