A record number of complaints about nurses were registered by the regulatory body last year.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council said it received 1,460 allegations of misconduct and unfitness to practice in 2003-04.
This was a 12% increase on the previous year - and a jump of 28% on the figure for 1999-2000.
A NMC spokesman stressed that the number of complaints about nurses remained relatively small.
The NMC Fitness to Practice report said the majority of complaints came from employers.
However, it also received complaints from the public and the police - who are obliged to tell the NMC of any criminal convictions received by those on the register.
The NMC has two major committees. The professional conduct committee considers allegations of misconduct and the health committee considers allegations of unfitness to practise due to ill health.
The report showed 35% of cases heard by the PCC concerned poor practice, including unsafe clinical practice.
Three out of ten cases concerned verbal, physical and sexual abuse of patients - up 4% on the previous year.
Most complaints heard by the health committee concerned alcohol and drug
abuse, the report said.
Jonathan Asbridge, NMC president and chair of the PCC, said: "The council's work is very important in ensuring that the public is protected from practitioners who may be unsafe and that high standards are maintained in the professions.
"It is important to stress that the number of complaints made to the NMC about members of the professions remains low in comparison to actual numbers of the register.
"A complaint is only ever made about one nurse or midwife in every 500 on the NMC's register."
Mr Asbridge said there were a number of possible reason for the increase in complaints.
"Firstly, there are more people on the NMC register than ever before.
"Secondly, there is a greater awareness among employers and the public of the role the NMC has as the regulator for the professions.
"Increasing numbers of people are turning to the NMC if they have concerns about professional standards and public protection.
"Finally, the increase in complaints reflects a general strengthening of human resource management within the NHS and the independent sectors."
Howard Catton, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "The NMC plays a vital role in protecting the public through the maintenance of professional standards, however, these allegations of misconduct represent only 0.2% of nurses on the register."
The NMC has about 650,000 health workers on its register.
The PCC considered 283 cases of alleged misconduct and 18 applications for restoration to the register in 2003/04. The health committee considered 250 cases.