Scottish nursing leaders insist the safety of patients can only be assured if the NHS made staffing levels a priority.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said there is a clear link between failing care and poor staffing levels.
A RCN survey indicated that two-fifths of nurses in the UK reported that care was compromised at least once a week due to staffing shortages.
It found that "avoidable complications", such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), urinary tract infections (UTIs) and pressure ulcers, are only avoidable if nursing care is delivered effectively.
This, according to the nursing body's Guidance on safe nurse staffing levels in the UK report, could only be achieved if a sufficient amount of nurses with the right skills were employed in the country.
The report also revealed that Scotland is the only country in the UK that has nationally agreed workforce and workload planning tools for the nursing sector. These are designed to ensure health boards employ the right number of nurses and unregistered nursing staff with the right skills in the right places.
However, the RCN confirmed that Scottish health boards are disregarding the tools and are relying on staff turnover and other "short-sighted" measures to reduce nursing and other staff in a bid to balance their books.
RCN Scotland Director, Theresa Fyffe, said: "It is a great shame that the sophisticated workforce and workload planning tools for the nursing workforce in Scotland are being overlooked as health boards try to save money by not replacing nurses and other staff when they leave.
NHS nurses who regularly report that patient care is compromised are working on wards with twice as many patients per registered nurse as those who report care is never compromised, according to the study."
"Primary care is suffering too, I am a nurse practitioner and have been served redundancy papers this week, as rurality payment has not been made to our practice, I am excellent value for money in that patients are seen much quicker" - Jean Curry, Northumberland