Many student nurses never finish their training
More than a quarter of the UK's student nurses dropped out of their courses in 2006, figures suggest.
Data obtained by Nursing Standard magazine under the Freedom of Information Act showed some courses had a drop-out rate as high as 56%.
Of a total of 25,101 students who started degrees or diplomas, 6,603 dropped out before the end, costing an estimated £98m.
The government said it was working to minimise the attrition rate.
Nursing Standard contacted all the universities teaching nursing between 2002 and 2006, excluding those not running pre-registration degree and diploma courses.
Only the University of Southampton and London South Bank University failed to submit details.
The drop out ranged from 6% to 56%, with the problem most acute in greater London and the south east, where it was 32%.
Drain on resources
Gill Robertson, student adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Any attrition is a huge drain on resources.
"The money wasted is deplorable and the effect on students and their families is enormous.
"It is time that much more work and investment was in place to reduce this if it is possible in some universities it is possible in them all."
Shadow health minister and former NHS nurse Anne Milton said morale among student nurses was at rock bottom, despite increased government spending on the NHS.
She said: "Until we put patient outcomes ahead of targets and gimmicks, we'll continue to lose good nursing staff and patients will continue to suffer."
A Department of Health spokeswomen said collecting reliable data was a difficult challenge.
However, she said the government was working with strategic health authorities to address the problem.
"The current system means that if a student nurse drops out of training, then the funding for that place ceases.
"Universities therefore have a tangible incentive to keep students in their courses or they lose funding."