The Health Secretary has defended the staggered pay increase for NHS staff amid accusations it echoes Conservative policies.
Alan Johnson conceded that pay is a "morale issue" for nurses, but added that nothing he says will ever make staff feel they have received a fair rise.
He was responding to a delegate at Labour's conference who claimed the 2.5% deal should have been awarded in one go.
They asked Mr Johnson: "How can you justify your intention of paying NHS workers below the pay review and splitting the payment instead of all in one block?
"This smacks of the former Tory policies which we all believed would never resurface under Labour, and it would appear how wrong we were."
But Mr Johnson said: "I do understand how the staged pay increase this year was received.
"It is a big part of the morale issue we are seeking to resolve, and nothing I say here will convince anyone in the health service that the staged pay increase was fair.
"I would hope that people would put that in the context of what we tried to do on pay and conditions since 1997."
He said that while public sector pay has been capped, apart from in the armed forces, the Government is still working to help people on low wages.
"I hope now we have put aside this year's pay, and people will still feel very strongly about it, but we can focus now on what we can do in the future," he added.
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Labour Party conference
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