Efforts to cut NHS spending could put more than 5,600 jobs at risk in England, leaving the system under “real strain”, it is claimed.
The estimated job losses across 26 NHS trusts could rise to more than 36,000 if cuts applied to all trusts, in a “worst case scenario”, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
RCN spokesman Howard Catton said the cuts could take place over the coming three years as staff who retire are not replaced and many are made redundant.
The NHS has been asked to find between £15bn and £20bn in efficiency savings over the coming three years as part of a bid to save money across the board.
Dr Catton said a number of trusts “were deliberately holding back in being clear” on where efficiency savings would strike.
RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said the drive to find up to £20bn in savings could lead to longer waits for patients and “less staff being asked to do more”.
Dr Carter said he had not seen an analysis of how the £20bn figure had been arrived at but politicians could not pretend that sort of cash could be removed without an impact on the front line.
He said it was “disingenuous” to suggest you could remove £20bn from the £100bn NHS budget and “nothing changes”.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “In delivering efficiency improvements, service change proposals must demonstrate a strong clinical case for change, promoting better outcomes for patients.”