Managers need better training and more rigorous checks, and are being held back by limited opportunities to develop their skills, the Commons health select committee heard at last Thursday's workforce planning inquiry.

Institute of Healthcare Management chief executive Sue Hodgetts said: 'There needs to be more continuous assessment for management. We can't assume that, if people hit a target, they're good managers.'

She said policy shifts had created a need for new private-sector skills such as negotiation, contract management and responsiveness to rapid changes in direction.

'There's a graduate management scheme but no systematic central training for existing managers,' she said. 'Some people have fantastic opportunities but others are limited by a lack of support and training.'

This view was backed up by NHS Alliance chief executive Michael Sobanja, whose written evidence said that the NHS was 'bad' at training managers and providing continuous professional development.

He said that: 'Every health organisation is supposed to have a performance appraisal system for all members, including managers. It can be anything from a chat over a cup of coffee with a chum to something more demanding.'

He said managers needed '360-degree feedback' from colleagues and from the government. 'This would get them away from box-ticking on targets to actually thinking about health outcomes for patients.'

Asked if primary care was 'chronically over-administered and under-managed,' Mr Sobanja agreed.

Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital foundation trust chief executive Sir Jonathan Michael said he did not want to see the introduction of uniform training directed by Whitehall.

He said: 'Greater decentralisation means responsibility for training is on individual organisations. It's for those organisations to ensure that the staff working for them have the competence to do the jobs.'

However, he did want clinicians to receive more structured training in management skills to enable them to share their expertise with trust boards. He said: 'We should be getting clinicians to play a much bigger role in management but they receive relatively little training as undergraduates and postgraduates.'