The Government denies hospitals are facing a shortage of nurses and says it “does not recognise” data from the national union saying hundreds are missing from staff rosters.

Figures published by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last week showed there were 399 empty nursing posts at Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust last summer, a vacancy rate of 22 per cent.

Across the capital there were 10,140 vacant nursing posts, leaving London with 17 per cent of nursing posts unfilled.

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A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these figures.

“Official statistics show that Londoners have already benefitted from 3,400 additional nurses since May 2010 and this is down to continued Government investment in the frontline.

“We have 50,000 nurses in training and our recent changes to student funding will mean up to 10,000 more training places across the country by 2020.

“Our recent launch of a new nursing associate role will also open up a career into nursing for thousands of people from all backgrounds.”

London Assembly Member Fiona Twycross said the shortage puts patient care at risk and called on the Government to “get serious” about tackling the problem.

The Labour member said: “Over recent years we’ve seen a devastating mix of NHS cuts, reductions in nurse training posts and bursaries, and low morale brought about by increasing work pressures.

“It’s little wonder that fewer people are attracted to nursing and that those who are in the profession want out.

“With the high cost of living in the capital becoming increasingly unaffordable, it’s clear that there is now a struggle to attract and retain nurses and other key workers.”

The union filed Freedom of Information requests with hospitals across the capital which found that up to 30 per cent of nursing posts were vacant in some areas.

The group's London branch claimed "historic cuts to training places, plus the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the Government, meant many London trusts were unable to find as many permanent staff as they need".

Last week an Epsom and St Helier spokesman said: "In 2015 we maintained a relentless focus on recruitment across our organisation.

"We have recruited 303 nurses since April 2015, helping us to significantly reduce our vacancy rate and halve our agency spend.”

In the November spending review Chancellor George Osborne scrapped the nurses bursary, which can be between £1,000 and more than £4,000, and replaced it with a loan.

A Parliamentary debate on the decision was held this week after a trainee nurse started a petition against the changes.

It has attracted more than 150,000 signatures so far.

During the debate MP for Sutton and Cheam Paul Scully, who supports the change, said: “Some people who are concerned about the withdrawal of the bursary are worried about students having no money.

“Even now, many students, especially in London, with its high housing costs, say that the bursary nowhere near covers their living expenses.”