A report from the Royal College of Nursing said a significant contributing factor to the shortage of nurses in England are the cuts the Coalition Government made to student nursing commissions in 2010, falling by 13.5% by 2012 - a reduction of 3,375 places.
The report said that as it takes three years for student nurses to qualify, these cuts are impacting on the supply of nurses right now.
A reliance on using agency nurses means that the NHS would have spent an estimated £980 million on them by the end of the 2014/15 financial year, the college said. It said that as with GPs, the nursing workforce is ageing, with around 45% being over 45.
The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that the organisation had warned that cutting nursing workforce numbers was the "wrong course to take".
We warned that cutting the workforce numbers to fund the NHS reorganisation and to find the efficiency savings was the wrong course to take.
The cuts were so severe that we are only just catching up with where we were five years ago. Many areas, like district nursing and mental health, are even worse off.
While the health service has spent the last five years running on the spot, demand has continued to increase. Whoever forms the next Government must learn from this report and take immediate action to grow the nursing workforce, and ensure it can keep up with demand with a sustainable and long-term plan.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) report has also pointed out that the community nursing workforce has been cut by more than 3,300, despite NHS plans to move care from hospitals to the community. It said the headcount figure for nurses fell from 317,370 in May 2010 to 315,525 in December 2014, meaning there are 1,845 fewer qualified nurses in the workforce.
From May 2010 to December 2014 there has been a 28% reduction in the number of specialist district nurses, a loss of 2,168 posts across England.
A report has warned that whichever party is elected next month, it must take immediate action to increase the number of nurses.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that while the Coalition Government claims to have increased the number of posts during the past five years, there are actually fewer now than in 2010 if midwives, health visitors and school nurses are not included.
The college said a lack of political will to train nurses means that while 50,000 people applied to become nurses last year, there were only 21,000 places - meaning that there is no shortage of people wanting to do the job.
Hospital wards "become very dangerous" if nurses are caring for more than eight patients at a time, an expert from the Royal College of Nursing has told Daybreak.
Director of Nursing Janet Davies said there was no ideal number of nursing staff on a ward as demands varied depending on "type of ward, the age of the patient and the complexity".
However, she argued for a higher education level among nurses and said staff members with a degree were better at thinking on their feet.
English nurses who work on understaffed wards "have got their work cut out" for them, Daybreak's health editor Dr Hilary Jones explained.
He explained the uphill battle faced by nurses and the need for more would-be nurses to gain a degree:
The Government will not introduce a legal minimum for the number of nurses working on hospital wards because staff requirements were a "different number for different wards", Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
A major study has found a direct link between nursing cutbacks and higher patient death rates.
Mr Hunt said forcing hospitals to publish monthly data on ward staffing would be a "huge step" forward.
The patient-to-nurse ratio in England is significantly higher compared to other countries, new research has revealed, after a major study suggested nursing cutbacks are directly linked to higher patient death rates in hospital.
Norway had a ratio of 5.2 to one, the Irish Republic 6.9, the Netherlands seven and Finland and Sweden 7.6.
Spain appeared to have the most overworked staff, with an average 12.7 patients per nurse but every nurse in the country is required to have a a bachelor degree.
A 10 per cent increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor degree was associated with 7 per cent lower surgical death rates.
The number of patients cared for by each nurse in the UK is "worrying" and "can compromise patient safety," according to experts.
Chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Peter Carter, expressed concern over findings which showed nurses were expected to care for nine different patients on a daily basis.
It is worrying to see that researchers found the mean ratio of patients to nurses in England is above eight, as we know that this can compromise patient safety.
The RCN has also expressed concern at the skills mix in UK hospitals as trusts get rid of more senior nurses to save money, meaning there is far less experience on many wards, and the full extent of this will be revealed in our upcoming Frontline First report.
Nurses working in Spain are the most overworked in Europe, according to researchers.
However, patients have a higher chance of survival after surgery because more Spanish nurses have an undergraduate degree.
Staff in English hospitals look after nine patients on average - one more than professional bodies would like.
According to research published in the Lancet journal:
- Spanish nurses look after an average of 12.7 patients every day.
- Norway has a ratio of five patients to every nurse.
- Ireland every seven patients will be cared for by one nurse.
- The Netherlands, Finland and Sweden all had roughly seven nurses to every patient.