Boris Johnson will be told to “stand by” the nurses who helped save his life after he contracted coronavirus – and reconsider the government’s 1% NHS pay offer.

The leader of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will make a direct appeal to the prime minister, recalling the description he gave of his life-saving care and the nursing staff who looked after him last spring.

General secretary Dame Donna Kinnair will tell a conference of hundreds of frontline nurses and activists: “I’m appealing directly to Boris Johnson today to think back 12 months.

“When you told the world you owed your life to the care of nursing staff.

“When you acknowledged that the people who looked after you were putting themselves in harm’s way.

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“You had your eyes opened to the difference 21st century nursing makes.

“You told the country it was two nurses who stood guard for 48 hours and made life-saving interventions.

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“How would you feel if you saw them now?

“They stood by you, now stand by them.”

The government sparked anger from unions representing NHS workers by recommending a 1% pay rise following a momentous year for the service because of the coronavirus crisis.

The RCN and Unite have warned of industrial action, while opposition politicians are stepping up their criticism ahead of local elections in May.

Dame Donna will also say the government knows it has “badly misjudged” the moment, and will criticise suggestions of one-off COVID bonuses for NHS staff in England.

She will describe the suggested 1% pay rise as “measly”, continuing: “There is money available – just look at some of the other decisions.

“Big money for defence, and tax breaks that benefit companies like Amazon.

“If ministers keep to such a low pay award, it will be because they’ve chosen not to, the decision is very much in their hands.

“Reports suggest the government is thinking of trying to defuse this row by giving people a small COVID bonus.

“It’s very simple, we don’t want a one-off sweetener.

“Nursing needs a significant increase this year that we can build on next year too.

“There are tens of thousands of vacant posts and yet ministers are timid and tinkering.

“They are driving even more to reconsider their career in nursing after the pandemic.

“Putting an extra £3.50 a week on the table doesn’t cover the cost of a day’s parking.”