The number of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff working in the NHS has fallen by more than 4,800 since April 2010, official figures have revealed.
There are currently 276,608 qualified nurses working in the health service, the NHS Information Centre workforce statistics showed - 4,823 fewer than when the coalition government came to power two years ago.
However, despite the drop in nursing posts, the number of doctors was up 3,700 in the same period, according NHS Information Centre workforce statistics.
Health minister Anne Milton said that despite the reduction in nurse numbers, there were 2,400 more clinical staff working in the NHS than there were two years ago.
'In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 17,500, creating savings that will be reinvested into frontline patient care,' she said.
'Funding will increase by £12.5 billion over the next three years, protecting the NHS for the future.'
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the fall in nurse numbers was a result of 'cuts to the NHS budget'.
'On (David Cameron's) watch, we have seen the NHS lose nurses at a rate of 200 per month as hospital trusts make knee jerk cuts to the frontline.
'This explains why hospitals are under intense pressure with waiting lists rising and patients being forced to wait on trolleys.'
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said it 'simply wasn't right' to suggest that the reduction in nursing posts would have no knock-on effect on patient care.
'Cutting staff is a short-sighted and ultimately futile way of attempting to save money. Instead, the NHS should pursue better planned, managed and designed services which keep people as well as possible and out of hospital.'
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