UNISON is urging MPs to highlight the urgent need for substantial investment in education and training for nurses and other healthcare staff.
The call comes ahead of a special debate later today (Wednesday) in Parliament on the future of nurse education funding that, the union says, has been severely hit by cuts.
The number of people applying for and taking up places on nursing courses has fallen dramatically, says UNISON, as a result of the government replacing the NHS bursary with tuition fees and student loans.
To make matters worse, there are currently more than 41,000 nursing vacancies in England, with the situation set to worsen with Brexit on the horizon, says UNISON.
The union is calling for alternative routes into nursing, such as apprenticeships, to receive proper investment to enable more people to enter nursing.
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “The NHS can ill afford to have a shortage of nurse recruits.
“Fewer people going in to nursing and other healthcare professions will increase the pressure on staff in other parts of the NHS.
“Abolishing the bursary was a mistake, and has deterred people from applying for places as well as from taking them up. The next generation of caring professionals are being short-changed by the government.
“Ministers must substantially increase spending on education and training to avoid a workforce crisis. This should be done as a matter of urgency.”