Nurses and medical support staff came out top in the annual round of public-sector pay deals last year, according to figures from Incomes Data Services.
About 444,000 nurses and 53,000 support staff will benefit from an award of 4.7 per cent - with up to 12 per cent for newly qualified nurses. This compares with 3-4 per cent received by two-thirds of public-sector staff, the 1999-2000 Pay in the Public Services report shows.
Other groups to gain were the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's 4,800 staff and the 60,000 non-industrial staff at the Ministry of Defence who also received awards of 4.7 per cent.
They were topped only by the senior salaries review body, where some civil servants received 10.5 per cent, although these were merit rises with some staff receiving no increase.
Overall awards were higher than the private sector, where there were more deals under 3 per cent. But average earnings are still higher in the private sector at £401.30 a week against £394.40 in the public sector.
The lowest awards went to Manchester Airport employees and the fire service who received 1.45 and 2 per cent respectively.
The lower increases in the private sector were put down to low inflation and near-recession in parts of manufacturing.
By Dominique Hammond