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.