NHS trusts in England are set to cut thousands of frontline posts as they aim to save £20bn by 2015, a plan which may lead to fewer services, fewer nurses and a worse NHS, according to The Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The RCN has exposed evidence from 21 NHS trusts in England that showed that 54% of nearly 10,000 posts due to be cut are frontline clinical posts.

The college also found that nursing posts represent 46% of identified workforce cuts.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter said that cutting thousands of frontline doctors and nurses could have a catastrophic impact on patient safety and care.

“Our figures expose the myth that frontline staff and services are protected,” Carter added.

The NHS is also planning to close services such as intermediate care for patients who have been discharged, a residential detoxifcation and treatment unit, family nurse partnerships and community falls services.