The RCN raised concerns that cuts to services and staff are now becoming a reality across the health service as some trusts look to slash budgets, and said it is already aware of more than 5,000 jobs earmarked for cuts.
But it said targeting frontline NHS services in an effort to make £20bn in efficiency savings will ‘take the health service back to the days of hospital trolleys in corridors and year-long waits for operations'.
Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary said: ‘Despite assurances that the NHS budget will be protected, the reality is that locally, trusts are making deep and dangerous cuts to staff numbers now, with further cuts planned for the future.
‘It's time for a reality check - there is no doubt that cutting staff numbers will have a disastrous effect on the quality of care provided.'
He added: ‘We would urge whichever party forms the next government to work with the RCN to devise ways of making the savings that we know are possible within the NHS, whilst protecting frontline care.'