The NHS has lost more than 5,000 nurses in just three years, official figures show.
Data for May this year reveals there were 348,311 qualified staff working in nursing, midwifery and health visiting, down 5,601 on the 353,912 in May 2010.
Numbers of midwives, health visitors and school nurses have risen, meaning the drop is attributable to lost nursing posts.
The figure for the total number of staff working in these fields has dropped every year since 2010.
In total, there were 307,634 nurses, midwives and health visitors working the equivalent of full time in May, down on the 310,793 in May 2010.
The data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed the number of doctors working has risen slightly, as has the number of ambulance staff. .
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “Report after report has warned David Cameron of the central importance of nurse numbers in providing safe care.
“But these cuts to the NHS frontline show he is ignoring these warnings and allowing hospitals across England to operate without safe staffing levels.
“It is simply unacceptable that, six months on, the Government has failed to take any action on the minimum staffing recommendation in the Francis Report.
“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has confirmed it has not been asked to even examine how to achieve it.
“This complacency can’t carry on. The NHS simply cannot absorb nursing cuts on this scale.
“David Cameron must intervene and provide a guarantee to patients that all hospitals in England will have enough staff to provide safe care. On Cameron’s watch, A&E is in crisis and waiting lists have hit a five-year high. And yet he gives six-figure pay-offs to managers and P45s to nurses.”
Health Minister, Norman Lamb, said: “There are nearly 3,500 more clinical staff in the NHS since May 2010, while the number of admin staff, managers and senior managers has fallen by over 23,400.
“Hospitals themselves must decide how many and which staff they employ, and they must also publish details and evidence to show that numbers are right for the care needs of the patients that they look after. The new Chief Inspector of Hospitals will be able to take action if hospitals are found to be compromising patient care by not having the right number of staff on wards.”