Slashing training budgets in reaction to the credit crunch would be a 'false economy', health secretary Alan Johnson has told trusts.
Speaking at the NHS Employers conference in Birmingham last week he called on trusts to continue investing in staff professional development.
He said: "If we don't maintain funds in training and education, we will find that problems reoccur."
NHS chief executive David Nicholson agreed cutting training budgets was not an appropriate response to problems in the wider economy. But he said he would not be ordering every chief executive to maintain current levels of spending.
He said: "It's the responsibility of organisations to take this seriously.
"We can create an environment where leadership and personal development are seen as important, but individual organisations need to make their case locally to make it happen - there's no magic wand."
Line managers had a duty to help staff progress their careers. Mr Nicholson said substantial funds were being allocated centrally to building leadership, but it was crucial that trusts also invested in and nurtured future leaders.
He appealed to foundation trusts to "work together with the rest of the system".
The lack of senior managers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds also needed to be addressed, he said.