The comments were made as the university admissions service, UCAS, revealed a further significant fall in applications to nursing courses in England.
Last year, Ministers announced extra nurse training places but did not attract students to fill them. These figures suggest that there is a serious risk of a second drop in trainee nurse numbers this year if measures are not taken to increase applications.
The RCN said the recent loans problem must also be resolved and means-tested grants from a central funding pot within the Department of Health and Social Care should be introduced.
Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said: “The continued failure of ministers to get a grip on the nurse training situation will jeopardise care for patients.
“Extra university places are only worthwhile if they are filled and the NHS gets a newly trained nurse at the end. The Government knows patients can pay a highest price when there aren’t enough nurses.”