Twenty-four new bodies become operational this week which will, for the first time, oversee the workforce and training issues of NHS staff.

They replace the 39 education consortia and local medical workforce advisory groups and will work with local authorities, the private, voluntary and prison sector to ensure integrated workforce planning across health economies.

The NHS workforce development confederations will have overall responsibility for developing the future workforce, and their priority will be to tackle recruitment and retention problems in their local area.

Two - one in the Northern and Yorkshire region and the other in the South West region - have yet to appoint chief executives.

Although most appointments to the confederations are from within the NHS, it is understood that four are from outside the NHS - including further education and private industry.

Alan Cowie, who becomes chief executive of the Durham and Teesside workforce development confederation, was business vicepresident with Synetix, part of ICI.