Almost half of newly qualified nurses have not been able to find jobs this year, MPs heard last week.
Professor Paul Turner, chair of the Council of Deans, which oversees nurse training in England and Wales, told the Commons health select committee inquiry into NHS deficits that the number of training places was being cut after strategic health authorities had been asked to make savings across the board.
'This will only have an impact in years to come when there will be fewer places available for training and, as a result, fewer newly qualified nurses coming into the NHS,' said Professor Turner.
He said the council's own figures showed that only 56 per cent of newly qualified nurses had been able to find jobs this year, and only 58 per cent of newly qualified midwives.
'We don't know what is happening to these nurses who can't find jobs, but many of them may be lost to the NHS, which is very worrying.'
British Medical Association consultants committee chair Dr Jonathan Fielden said that cuts in medical education budgets would have a long-term effect on recruitment of doctors: 'The number of medical posts in many trusts is being cut and this has an impact on the staff who remain there, as there is more pressure on them in terms of workload and on morale,' he said.
Kidderminster MP Dr Richard Taylor said that£133m had been saved from the medical and nursing education budget last year as it was an 'underspend', according to the Department of Health. 'But does this mean that the workforce development confederations were not allowed to spend it?' he asked the panel. They were unable to say.
Royal College of Nursing Institute director Dr Anne-Marie Rafferty said some trusts had lower nurse-patient ratios, which had been linked to higher mortality rates.
But Labour MP Dr Howard Stoate said that there were around 60,000 more nurses working in the NHS now than in 1997, and that the NHS had fewer beds, so nurse-patient ratios should be higher overall.