The Royal College of Nursing has called on the government to work to prevent health services being 'swamped' because of rising unemployment.
Chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: "We know that periods of economic downturn often feature rises in health problems, particularly among those affected by long-term unemployment.
"In many cases losing your job can be the tipping point which leads to isolation, family breakdown and mental health problems, and things can get much worse when people are out of work for more than six months.
"This, combined with the impact on general health from hardship and the struggle to make ends meet, can combine to put real pressure on the NHS."
The college's call comes as prime minister Gordon Brown meets business leaders and trade unions to discuss measures to support employment.
Mr Carter said: "We would now urge the government to make sure that these measures can make an impact quickly, so that health services are not stretched further by the avoidable effects of unemployment on individuals and families.
"This is particularly important in areas which are already blighted by health inequalities, where any further job losses would be most keenly felt."