One in three nurses believes the quality of patient care has declined in the last year, research suggests.
Dwindling staff numbers, unreasonable workloads, stress levels and service cuts are the greatest barriers to providing the highest quality of patient care, according to a poll of 3,000 nurses.
The research, conducted by union Unison, found that 35% of nurses think the quality of care has fallen in the last year.
Half said it has remained the same and just 8% believe care for patients has improved in the last 12 months. Less than 10% of nurses said they could deliver safe, dignified, compassionate care all of the time, according to Unison.
Almost three-quarters of nurses, who were surveyed in March this year, said they faced unreasonable workloads and 46% said they work longer than their contracted hours several times a week. Nurses also raised concerns about staff levels, with 60% of those surveyed claiming the number of staff has fallen.
Recent figures show that since May 2010 the number of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff employed by the NHS has fallen by 6,588. Between June and July this year 808 posts were lost, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
Christina McAnea, Unison's head of health, said: "The Prime Minister defended his record on the NHS in his party conference speech. He should be ashamed. The NHS is being plunged into peril by Government cuts and falling staff numbers coupled with an increasing demand for health services.
"Nurses know the NHS and they know when things are going wrong. They know that patients deserve to have top quality care all of the time - not some of the time, but this is all they feel able to deliver in this environment.
"Workloads are becoming unmanageable and rising stress levels for nurses are bad news for patients. Nurses do not feel respected by the Government - this has to change as a matter of urgency.
"The Government needs to start listening to nurses and other health workers who are ringing alarm bells about the state of our NHS before it is too late."