A government-commissioned report looks set to reveal the NHS could face a shortage of 190,000 nurses within the next three years.
The DH report, compiled by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI), is not yet in the public domain but a CfWI spokeswoman confirmed has been submitted to DH ministers ahead of an imminent publication.
Reports in The Daily Mirror state up to a third of the existing 600,000 will retire in a few years, leaving a huge deficit. In the worst-case scenario, the gap between supply and demand will soar to an overall shortage of 190,000 by 2016.
Under this scenario, demand for registered nurses will rise from 600,000 staff in 2011 to 700,000 in 2016, but the supply of nurses will fall from 570,000 to 510,000 over the same period.
In the best case scenario, the report will suggest there could be enough nurses in 2016, but only if demand remains at 2011 levels - unlikely given current trends in patient acuity driven by the country's ageing population.