Nurses will get three 3 per cent pay rises over the next 18 months, DHBs say in their latest offer to avert strike action.

District health boards spokeswoman Helen Mason says they have doubled their offer to nurses to settle pay negotiations.

The offer was a significant increase going beyond the recommendations of the independent panel proposed by the Prime Minister, Mason said.

The offer is a quarter-billion dollars more than what was previously on the table, she said.

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The offer will invest $520 million between now and 2020 for base pay increases, more staff, and improving working conditions, Mason said.

Everybody will get three pay rises over the next 18 months.

The offer will increase New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) members' base salary - the salary of a registered nurse with five years of experience will go up about $10,500 over 18 months.

"That's almost $200 extra a week by the end of 2019," Mason said.

"On top of that they'll also get increases in on-call rates. By December 2019 the average take-home pay of a full-time experienced registered nurse will be around $93,000 a year."

There will also be a $2000 lump sum payment in addition to base pay increases.

The Ministry of Health will provide an extra $48m to find more nurses and measures to ensure safe staffing levels.

The pay rises consist of the 3 per cent rise in June this year, another 3 per cent in August, and a further 3 per cent in August 2019.

The on-call allowance will increase from $4.04 to $8, and from $6.06 to $10 for public holidays.

There will be an immediate 2 per cent investment in additional nursing staff.

Mason said she was "really optimistic" the offer would be accepted and industrial strike action would not be carried out.

A former nurse and midwife herself, she said DHBs wanted to reassure their workers that they are valued.

"We made the offer to the nurses organisation this afternoon ... they haven't formally made comment but we would really hope that this would be well received."

Christchurch nurses picket for better pay and conditions earlier this month. Photo / Nick Bewley
Christchurch nurses picket for better pay and conditions earlier this month. Photo / Nick Bewley

DHBs were hoping for the best but planning for the worst, she said.

"Nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants are a highly respected and valued part of the health workforce which this increased offer recognises.

"We listened when nurses said raising base pay was very important to them."

The offer adds two steps to the top of the registered nurses scale to recognise the value of their experience, she said.

"Nurses have used teachers as a benchmark - this offer moves their base pay rates to a similar level, with penal rates lifting average earnings of a registered nurse with five years' experience to $93,000, moving them even higher."

NZNO Industrial Services manager Cee Payne said the organisation would not be making any comment on the revised offer until members received their analysis of the offer.

"The DHBs have unexpectedly publicised their revised offer this afternoon," Payne said.

"The next steps for NZNO are to discuss the offer with the full NZNO negotiation team and the NZNO DHB National Delegate Committee tomorrow.

"A full NZNO analysis will be out to members on Thursday this week and it is most likely that we will hold a media conference at that time once the members have received our analysis.

"At this stage we are not in a position to comment on the offer as this is not per our negotiation process."

Earlier today around 27,000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants voted to strike for two full days if their district health board bosses did not present them with an acceptable pay offer today.

The strikes, if they go ahead, would take place in July when health services will be stretched already dealing with an expected spike in flu cases, according to at least one DHB.

Life-preserving services would be negotiated with DHBs but the nurses union said it was not a decision taken lightly, and patient safety was paramount.