A report from the Royal College of Nursing warning of a staffing crisis at the NHS is dismissed by health secretary Andrew Lansley as "scaremongering".
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Data from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found 56,058 jobs have been axed or face the cut across the UK.
In April, the figure was almost 40,000 and last November stood at just 27,000.
The figures include redundancies that have already been announced or are in the pipeline, and jobs that have not been filled once people leave or retire.
There has been no reduction in clinical staff and as far as nurses are concerned we're within 1 per cent of the (staffing) figure two years ago. Andrew Lansley
However, Andrew Lansley told Channel 4 News he did not recognise the figures. "I don't think it's helpful to engage in scaremongering," he said. "It is better to deal in facts - there has been no reduction in clinical staff and as far as nurses are concerned we're within 1 per cent of the (staffing) figure two years ago".
The RCN's ireport is taken from NHS trusts, including analysis of board meeting papers, forward planning, annual and strategy documents.
On top of job losses, the RCN warned of posts being downgraded - where jobs are re-classified by NHS trusts to save money.
Staff can be expected to perform the same duties for less pay or less skilled workers are brought in.
Last month, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told MPs he was not aware of any jobs in the NHS being downgraded in this way.
Crisis point looms
Today, the RCN said the NHS was heading for "crisis point", saying services and staffing levels were being "severely affected".
It warned of "potentially disastrous consequences for patient care" from the cuts.
In England alone, 48,029 NHS posts are set to be cut or have been lost, up on the 30,873 seven months ago.
This is the equivalent of closing some of the biggest hospitals trusts in the country - such as Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust - more than four times over.
In the worst cases, some trusts are cutting up to a quarter of their workforce.
An analysis of 41 trusts found clinical posts make up 49 per cent of total workforce cuts, with nursing posts accounting for more than a third of the jobs to go.
It is only 18 months ago that we were concerned about losing around 5,000 NHS jobs. Now it is more than 10 times that figure. RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter
On average, across the 41 trusts, 8.3 per cent of qualified nursing jobs will be lost, according to the figures.
Documents suggest Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust plans to lose 1,916 staff from 2011 to 2016. This is 23 per cent of its 2010 workforce.
Kingston Hospital NHS Trust plans to reduce staff numbers by 486 posts from 2011 to 2016. This is 19 per cent of its workforce, according to the analysis.
The Government has promised to protect frontline services. At the same time, the NHS has also been tasked with finding £20 billion in efficiency savings.
RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: "These figures reveal the deeply worrying acceleration in NHS post losses in recent months.
"It is only 18 months ago that we were concerned about losing around 5,000 NHS jobs. Now it is more than 10 times that figure.
"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."