An additional 10,000 nurses are needed to bridge the current gap in nurse staffing levels if the nurse to patient ratio is to reach the same level as 2010, official figures have revealed.

According to data from the House of Commons Library, the number of nurses per patient has dropped in the last four years, falling to 5,182 nurses per million people in May 2014 from 5,364 in May 2010.

While the total number of nurses working in the UK has remained at 281,000 full-time equivalents, population growth has resulted in increased demand. There are concerns that an ageing population and public health challenges are likely to put even greater strain on nurses in the future.

According to analysis by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence carried out last year, nursing numbers will have fallen by five percent by 2016. The Labour Party has pledged to increase investment in the NHS and recruit an additional 20,000 nurses by 2020 if elected in next year’s General Election.

Linda Millband, joint head of clinical negligence based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Nottingham office, said: “A shortfall in nurses in the NHS puts hardworking professionals under immense pressure in their day-to-day delivery of care to patients.

“We have seen the serious implications that understaffing can have on the standards of care such as with the Mid Staffordshire scandal, and, in the worst cases, there can be life-changing and tragic consequences for patients.

“It is vital that the government acknowledges the risks and the pressures and actively addresses the understaffing issue in the nursing profession. They need to be working to fill the gaps in the workforce in a sustainable way, offering security to nurses delivering care and those receiving it.”