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13 May 2018, 07:36 | Updated: 13 May 2018, 07:38
A poll by the Royal College of Nursing has found 74% of people think there are too few nurses to provide safe patient care.
The survey was released along with a report titled Staffing For Safe And Effective Care: Nursing On The Brink showing how staff shortages are affecting patient care and the health of nurses.
The YouGov poll asked members of the public across the UK about the number of nurses working in the NHS.
The results showed 74% of people think there are too few nurses to provide safe patient care.
More than a quarter (27%) said their main concern is they are not receiving the care when needed.
Of those questioned, 17% said their primary concern was that the care they received "may not be safe".
On the first day of its annual congress, Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, is expected to say: "This situation could have been avoided. It was no accident - it was sadly inevitable.
"The reason we have so many vacancies is because of short-sighted cost-cutting in past years, and ineffective workforce planning driven by finance and not the needs of patients."
The UK poll follows on from an RCN member survey in 2017 which showed more than 50% of respondents in Scotland said their last shift was not staffed to the planned level.
Theresa Fyffe, RCN director for Scotland, said: "The results highlight the enormous public concern that there is around the number of nurses working in Scotland's NHS, and the ability of patients to receive care when and where they need it.
"Two years ago, Scotland's First Minister made a commitment at RCN congress to legislate for safe staffing levels.
"Getting that legislation right will mean that Scotland has the nursing staff it needs to care for patients now and in the future.
""The public must have confidence that the NHS services used by them and their loved ones are staffed to a safe level.
"That nearly 75% of people don't believe that this is the case shows that the time is right for safe staffing levels to be set out in law."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "In the forthcoming months we will formally introduce our Safe Staffing Bill to the Scottish Parliament, which we have been developing with a number of stakeholders, including the Royal College of Nursing.
"The Bill will ensure safe and effective staffing, reflect patients' care needs and promote a safe environment for service users and staff."
He added NHS staffing has increased to a "record high" under the current government, with qualified nurses and midwives rising by more than 3,000, and 2,600 additional training places are being created by 2021.