The Royal College of Nursing claims nearly 27,000 NHS job have been earmarked to be cut in the UK - including 18,000 in England - which it warns risks endangering patient care.
The figure, including nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, support staff, clerical, housekeeping and other staff, came from members and plans published in board papers.
The college said the total was three times higher than the total they had arrived at in April.
Chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said the idea the NHS was being protected was “an urban myth, that simply isn’t the case”.
“We have established that what the Department of Health is being told and what the public is being told is often far removed from the evidence on the ground.
“Right now, staff are not only concerned about losing their jobs, thy are concerned about keeping services open. The mood suggests that it is two minutes to midnight for the NHS.”
The report, released today, listed South Central and East of England as the two regions in England losing the most posts, 3,997 and 3,804 respectively.
The report names 10 acute trusts as planning to cut more than 350 posts and says Hertfordshire could lose 884 nursing and midwifery posts across its two hospitals, mental health trust and community services.
It also reveals examples of waste identified by its members along with nurse-led innovations that save the service money.
Mr Carter said the RCN was being told of vacancy freezes and diluted skill mix and said: “We know all too well from examples such as Stafford Hospital that if you cut back staffing levels to the bare bones, patients suffer and can be put in danger.”
The latest inquiry into Mid Staffs, this time focusing on the role of regulators and external managers, is now in its fourth day.
In response to the report, director of the National Nursing Research Unit Professor Peter Griffiths said: “There is a lot of research linking registered nurse staffing levels to patient safety in acute settings. If that’s where jobs are going it would be a huge concern.
“While none of this, nor the Mid Staffs reports, can lead you to the conclusion that reducing staffing levels will necessarily impact upon patient safety it is certainly enough to establish that there is a risk. It needs to be monitored.”
Portsmouth Hospital confirmed that over the past year 200 of its 442 job losses were nursing and midwifery staff.
But other trusts losing more than 350 posts challenged the figures.
North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust claimed its post reductions had been planned since 2006 and were “not something we are doing in response to the current economic climate”.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust said the 600 reduction figure the RCN had used referred to temporary staff.
NHS chief executive David Nicholson said: “The accuracy of these figures is not guaranteed and we do not recognise the RCN’s figure.
“While it is for local trusts to determine their specific workforce needs, we have made it clear that efficiency savings must not impact adversely on patient care.
“The government is committed to the NHS - to sustain and to improve services in the face of a tough economic climate. And that is why the NHS received a real terms increase in funding.
“But even with this commitment, in order to meet demand and improve the quality of services, the NHS needs to make up to £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015.”