A clip on YouTube called Shifthappens broadcasts statistical evidence to demonstrate that the human race is experiencing a world of exponential growth. NHS workforce planners should take note.

Technology and information is changing and expanding at such a rate that students and workers are learning about issues that will be out of date before the academic course or training scheme is completed.

According to Shifthappens, during the time it takes to read an issue of HSJ, 60 babies will be born in the US and 595 in China and India.

These rapid global changes make efforts to carry out long-term workforce planning and development even more perilous and uncertain.

In April, NHS Employers dedicated a conference to addressing the question of how best to get workforce numbers right in the future. Of the delegates, 84 per cent declared that they felt NHS workforce planning needed to be overhauled - overwhelming the small minority who probably wanted to avoid the re-creation of old-fashioned top-down models of planning. The conference was split on whether delegates thought the NHS could get workforce planning right, with three quarters supporting deliberate efforts to achieve oversupply.

Crucially, the conference advocated by a large margin that employers in the NHS should lead workforce planning, supported by strategic health authorities. This development would help put the responsibility with those living with the consequences of forecasts that fail to predict the future and the delivery of services which depend on the recruitment and retention of great staff.

The Department of Health's NHS winter report 2007-08 acknowledged the work and commitment of staff - many of whom were first trained and educated in the 1970s. While 25 per cent of the overall UK workforce have no formal qualifications, three quarters of the 2020 workforce have already left compulsory education.

Dealing with those who get into the wrong place is a major challenge for line managers and colleagues. One company operating in the health industry has a succession plan which seeks to spot "blockers" - staff not going anywhere, doing an adequate job but restricting the opportunity for promotion for those coming up behind.

The 2007 annual staff survey deserves extensive analysis in order to guide employers and line managers in where best to improve performance of their teams. It is always interesting - and disturbing - to clock how many staff say they intend to leave. The trend over the past three years has remained fairly constant at about a third. Critically, around one in five said they wanted to leave as soon as they could find another job.

The summer will bring news of what direction the government intends to take the NHS. Junior health minister Lord Darzi's next stage review presents a golden opportunity to place employers in charge of the difficult decisions relating to future staffing requirements. Perhaps there could be a vote on it when it is published.