The government says the RCN must work to improve standards instead of as a union for nurses after they hit out at new training plans.
As the government and nursing unions fight over how best to improve care, ITV News asked viewers to share their experiences.
More than half of nurses think their ward or unit is dangerously understaffed, a Nursing Times survey revealed today.
Peter Carter failed to reply to ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn's question despite being asked several times for a clear answer:
NHS chief Sir David Nicholson has said he is "absolutely completely committed" to the NHS despite questions about his future. He has been criticised for his role in the Mid Staffs hospital deaths scandal.
David Cameron has defended the Government's proposals for all new nurses to work as healthcare assistants, carrying out basic tasks, before beginning their nursing training.
The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Peter Carter, branded it a "really stupid idea".
Speaking at a PM Direct event in Derbyshire, Mr Cameron said: "It's going to be controversial, but in the end the kind of health service we want is not just about making sure we've got he facts and figures and the money spent well it's about the level of care."
The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Peter Carter, has branded the government's championing of healthcare assistants a "really stupid idea".
The government proposal is for all new nurses to work as healthcare assistants, carrying out basic tasks, before beginning their nursing training.
Mr Carter said the measure would be a waste of taxpayers' money.
"I don't believe it will happen. I believe it is a really stupid idea that will not benefit patients," he added.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham told Daybreak that Labour agreed with the claims made by the Royal College of Nursing this morning, adding that cuts to staffing levels was causing "intense pressure" on hospital wards.
"Having enough staff on the ground is essential to delivering safe care".
Janet Davies, director of the Royal College of Nurses said it would be difficult to say how many more nurses the NHS needs to make a safe working environment.
She told Daybreak: "The key thing here for us is to have levels that we actually know are safe."
In the public inquiry report into the serious failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC said NHS officials should consider the "benefits and value for money of possible staff-patient ratios".
- In a recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), nearly three quarters of nurses said that staffing levels in hospitals have dropped to unsafe levels at least once a month.
- The RCN said that worryingly, 9.5% of respondents claimed that staff numbers fell to an unsafe level on every single shift.
- A separate poll of more than 8,000 nurses, also conducted by the RCS, found that 29% believed staff levels were "rarely or never" safe.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said the introduction of mandatory safe staffing levels is now a "matter of extreme urgency".
Nine out of 10 nurses said they would support the introduction of mandatory staffing levels to protect patient safety.
– Department of Health spokesperson
As individual Trusts respond to the Francis inquiry we expect them to look at the issue of nursing numbers in their hospitals. However, if the RCN wants to have credibility in this debate then they must first set out how they are going to respond to the criticism levelled at them in the Francis report.
The numbers of staff on hospital wards are "regularly unsafe," the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) (RCN) has warned.
A poll of more than 2,000 nurses, who are in charge of hospital wards and team leaders who work in the community, found that almost three quarters of nurses think staffing levels are unsafe.
A third said patients were put at risk on a weekly basis due to diminished staff numbers.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said: "Without a doubt understaffing is the single biggest challenge facing the NHS today".
Nurses are "drowning in a sea of paperwork", the Royal College of Nursing said after figures suggested they spend 2.5 million hours a week on admin.
A poll on behalf of the union found that nurses across the UK spend an average of 17.3% of their time on non-essential paperwork and clerical tasks.
The RCN, which released the figures ahead of its annual congress, said nurses, who work for a combined 14.3 million hours a week, are being prevented from caring for patients.
Over four in five nurses (81%) said that having to complete non-essential paperwork prevented them from providing care.
– said Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN.
These figures prove what a shocking amount of a nurse's time is being wasted on unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy.
Yes, some paperwork is essential and nurses will continue to do this, but patients want their nurses by their bedside, not ticking boxes.
We are encouraged that the Government has acknowledged this issue, and the ongoing review by the NHS Confederation is a step in the right direction, but urgent action is needed now.
Almost nine in 10 of the 6,000 nurses surveyed said non-essential paperwork such as filing, photocopying and ordering supplies had increased in the last two years.
In February, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he commissioned the NHS Confederation to work to see how paperwork could be reduced.
Health Minister Dan Poulter has told Daybreak that Family Nurse Partnerships will be good for the economy.
He said: "Mums and dads who benefit from the programme are more likely to go back into education, training and work."