Nurses and midwives are facing "deep cuts" to the levels of funding available to enhance their education and training, a new report suggests.
Ongoing training and education for the workforce is "essential" to enable staff to provide safe and effective care, according to the report for the Council of Deans of Health - which represents university faculties for nursing, midwifery and other allied health professionals (AHP).
In some regions, the funding available for "continued professional development" has seen "deep cuts" of up to 45% this year, the report states.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said that cutting money for development and training could "impact on the safety and quality of services".
But Health Education England said continued professional development is "primarily an employer responsibility" and that the report was a "misleading portrayal of the extent of Health Education England's involvement in Continuing Professional Development".
Commenting on the report, Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the RCM, said: "Major reports on services have focused on the importance of staff training, yet midwives and other staff are facing potentially less funding.
"This is particularly disturbing because we know that the key to improving productivity in the NHS is through valuing and engaging the existing workforce, and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to provide safe and high quality services.
"This also comes at a time when the NHS and the Government want to adapt services, for example to promote more midwife-led care. To cut money for workforce development and training seems very short sighted indeed. It simply makes no sense and it will have an impact on the safety and quality of services."
"I urge the Government to rethink this decision and to invest in NHS staff, which is ultimately an investment in better care."
Stephanie Aiken, deputy director of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, added: "Patient care is transforming at a rapid pace, and without continuing training and education, it's hard to see how nursing staff can be expected to keep up with these changes.
"This report highlights yet another case of cuts without thought for the impact on staff and patients. Funding for training and development has been cut almost by half, yet the strategy for the health service and the care it delivers has not adapted to reflect this loss.
"If the Government wants to achieve the goal of safe and up to date care, it needs to provide the funding for training, development and education - it's that simple."
Rob Smith, director of strategy and planning at Health Education England, said: "The report is a misleading portrayal of the extent of Health Education England's involvement in Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which is primarily an employer responsibility.
"HEE does not, and never has had a specific allocation for general CPD for the NHS workforce. The report also fails to recognise the far greater investment that all NHS employers make in the development of their own staff.
"We have previously made clear that our Spending Review allocation represented a good settlement for HEE, allowing us to fund additional clinical undergraduates this year and prioritise additional investment in the future workforce as this is HEE's primary remit.
"We are also making strategic investments in areas such as Nurse Associates in order to meet NHS priorities locally and nationally. These priorities were previously supported by the Council of Deans and we assume still are?"
Professor Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: "These cuts make a mockery of NHS England's own Five Year Forward View, which acknowledged greater funding was required in staff training.
"This report highlights how important investing in the skills of health professionals, like physiotherapists, is to improving patient care and delivering high-quality, sustainable services.
"The Council of Deans is right to call on the Government to turn rhetoric into reality by investing in the workforce."