Nurses have heckled and laughed at Health Secretary Andrew Lansley after he claimed clinical staffing levels in the NHS had increased.
Mr Lansley was speaking in the wake of a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) study that warned more than 60,000 frontline jobs in the NHS, including those of nurses, were at risk because of spending cuts, with almost half already gone.
He was laughed at by members of the audience at the RCN annual conference in Harrogate after saying nurses should tell superiors if staffing levels were not safe.
And some in the crowd shouted "liar" after the Health Secretary claimed clinical staffing levels had increased on his watch.
Mr Lansley told the conference in a question and answer session: "There are places across the country where from time to time, the Care Quality Commission on our behalf, as the inspector, finds that staffing levels are not safe.
"Current warning notices are in place that staffing levels were thought not to be safe at Dewsbury, at Leeds, at Lancaster, at Mid Staffordshire, at Pembury and at Queen's Hospital in Romford. That can happen and we do need to identify it.
"If any of you have a view that staffing levels are literally not safe for patients I think part of your professional responsibility is to say that. Part of the responsibility of nursing directors and trust boards is to listen to what you are saying.
"Across the whole of the NHS we have seen staffing levels reduce. But clinical staffing levels overall have gone up by nearly 4,000. The number of qualified nurses has gone down by nearly 3,000 in two years in England but those are decisions made by trust boards. They have actually increased the number of doctors by nearly 4,000."
The RCN said 61,000 posts were at risk of being slashed across the health service, including nursing and other jobs, with 26,000 already lost in the two years to April.
The loss of so many jobs showed the "weakness" of Government pledges to protect the front line, according to the RCN.