The current economic downturn could be the greatest threat to nursing and patient care in living memory.
This is the warning from the Royal College of Nursing which has published a report of a roundtable discussion attended by health policy experts looking at the likely aftershocks of the recession on public finances.
The report details the key issues which jeopardised patient care following previous downturns, including unfilled vacancies, reduced training and public health budgets, slash and burn job cuts and low staff morale.
RCN Chief Executive Dr Peter Carter said: "While it is good news that there are now signs suggesting that the economy is slowly starting to recover, it is vital that health care workers are not left out in the cold as has happened in the past."
The report recommends that patient care must be central for nurses and policy makers, and having the right skills mix is crucial to delivering this care. It also highlights the value and effectiveness of specialist nurses who support patients with long term conditions.
The paper will be submitted to the Prime Minister's Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England.