A patient is given a H1N1 swine flu vaccination at the University College London hospital
Mexico, where the deadly H1N1 worldwide pandemic began three years ago, has seen a large increase in the number of swine flu cases in 2012 REUTERS

Nursing leaders have warned of a major crisis as 56,058 NHS jobs across the UK are due to be cut.

In England, the post cuts have increased by 50 percent with 48, 029 NHS posts set to be axed or already lost since the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) began tracking post losses in April 2010. The figure was 30,873 seven months ago.

An RCN analysis of 41 trusts in England revealed that clinical posts make up almost half of the total workforce cuts with nursing posts accounting for more than a third of the posts earmarked to be cut.

"Cutting staff numbers by up to a quarter and axing a third of nursing posts will undoubtedly have a deep and potentially dangerous impact on patient care. There is clear evidence that the quality of care and patient safety is improved when you have the right numbers and skills in place on wards," RCN chief executive & general secretary Peter Carter said in a statement.

"Staffing levels should be based on rigorous clinical evidence and should not be arbitrarily lowered in a short-sighted effort to save money. We are currently working with Peers to table amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to ensure mandatory safe staffing levels," Carter added.

He described the new figures as "deeply worrying."

The RCN report has also revealed a number of trends including downbanding - when registered nurses are replaced with nurses of a lower band or unregistered nursing assistants; cuts to preventative services, to the community sector, and to mental health services.

In addition, many NHS organisations are now attempting to move away from nationally agreed pay and conditions in attempts to meet their savings targets.

The RCN has always accepted that savings need to be made on the NHS, but says that cutting frontline staff and services that vulnerable patients rely on is not the way to do it.