Latest figures show that 92% of hospitals in England are struggling to recruit enough nurses, leading to more hours and added pressure for existing staff and sparking fears of a winter crisis in the NHS.

The figures, published by the NHS, found that 207 of the 225 acute hospital trusts in England fell short of their own targets for safe daytime staffing levels in August. It also found that 81% of hospitals failed to have enough nurses working during the night, and 79% were lacking for both.

Analysis of the figures by the Health Service Journal indicates that the situation has worsened, with 85% of hospitals missing their target for daytime nursing levels in January this year (2015).

This comes despite government promises to boost NHS staffing levels in the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire scandal. The Department of Health has responded to the figures by stating that staffing was a priority.

Christina McAnea, head of health at UNISON, the UK's largest healthcare trade union and a Thompsons Solicitors' trade union client, said: "Ministers should be hanging their heads in shame. Government policies are heaping untold pressure on to nurses and proposals to scrap the nursing bursary will make a bad situation much worse."

Michael Burrell, a senior clinical negligence solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Birmingham office, said: “The NHS and its staff are already facing mounting pressures due to demands on services and, if the weather turns cold this winter, then it may tip services and staff over the edge.

“The reality is that if the NHS is unable to recruit sufficient nurses, patient safety and staff wellbeing will be compromised and money that the NHS can ill-afford will be spent on expensive agency staff.

“The NHS is on the brink of a crisis and the government needs to tackle the staffing issue head on so patients can receive the best possible care if they have to go into hospital.”