NHS pay must be based on the government's 2% target for inflation, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said.
Doctors are unhappy with the recommendation
In his Pre-Budget Report, he said Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt would recommend the cap on pay rises to the Pay Review Body.
Mr Brown said he was determined to keep public sector pay under control.
Doctors and nurses called for a bigger rise, and warned a 2% rise would do nothing to improve recruitment and retention of health workers to the NHS.
Mr Brown announced the government's plans for limit on NHS pay alongside a 2.8% cap on the pay bill in the education sector.
He told the Commons: "These are both signals of our determination to keep public pay costs under control and contribute to continued low inflation in this country."
However, the British Medical Association said doctors should be recognised for working hard to deliver the biggest changes in NHS history.
A spokesperson said: "The BMA would urge the review body responsible for doctors' pay to recognise the enormous contribution that doctors are making to deliver far-reaching reforms across the NHS.
"The UK is critically short of doctors, and low morale may already lead many to consider retiring early.
"Capping doctors' pay will do nothing to help the NHS retain these doctors, or attract new students into medical careers."
In its evidence to the Pay Review Body the BMA said doctors should get a pay rise of at least 4.5% to maintain a comparable position with other professions.
Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the Royal College of Nursing, said a pay award based on the 2% inflation target would mean a real terms pay cut because costs such as council tax, mortgage interest and other housing costs would not be covered.
"We call on the Pay Review Body to maintain an even handed approach to evidence submitted by the parties and not to give the Chancellor's warning any greater weight than the evidence from staff organisations, which have highlighted the growing challenge, given an ageing workforce and global labour market, of retaining skilled health professionals."
Gill Bellord, head of pay and negotiations for NHS Employers, said the organisation would be giving oral evidence to the Pay Review Body over the next week.
"Our written evidence, which was based on what employers have told us, has already stressed that pay increases for the NHS in 2006 must be affordable.
"NHS Employers will be asking the pay review bodies to recognise that the NHS is under some financial pressure and to pitch their recommendations accordingly."