Data collected by the Information Centre found the number of practice nurses in the UK fell 3.6% to 22,000 between September 2007 and September 2008.
The number of GP practice staff also fell over the same period, down 2.2% to 94,000.
The rest of the NHS has seen an increase in virtually all other categories of staff. The total number of NHS staff rose 2.8% between 2007 and 2008.
The number of salaried GPs rose 10% from 6, 022 in 2007 to 6,663 in 2008, while the number of partners stayed roughly the same.
While the total number of GPs has increased, the number of GP practices has continued to decrease, falling during the last 10 years from over 9,000 in 1998 to 8,230 in 2008, suggesting practices are getting larger.
Dr. Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary said: 'We welcome the fact that there are more staff working in the NHS, but we know that 200,000 nurses are due to retire in the next decade. The government has been urging the health service to move care closer to home, yet it is community nurses that we're going to be losing to retirement over the next few years. All of this points to an NHS staff shortage timebomb.
'Our own research shows that one in three community nurses are over 50 and one in 5 practice nurses are over 55. Government must invest in nursing if it's going to be a more attractive career option because in the coming years we're going to need more rather than less practice, district and community nurses.'
- Why are practice nurse numbers declining?
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