Managers are calling for health economists to be brought in to give workforce planning a 'reality check'.

The Institute of Healthcare Management wants an end to the conflict between what it calls 'general Department of Health policy to increase employment in health disciplines' and 'the economic reality at individual organisation level'.

Chief executive Sue Hodgetts was today set to lay out her concerns at a workforce planning inquiry held by the Commons health select committee. In prepared written evidence she stated: 'There is a case for workforce modelling to be scrutinised by health economists for a reality check. It is likely that health economists could have predicted the current mismatch between planned levels of manpower and the economic development of the NHS.'

She told HSJ: 'There are two sets of people - those looking at the long-term planning of clinical professions and those dealing with the short-term challenges of meeting government targets. The problem is that never the twain shall meet.

'We need these different people to engage in much more discussion.'

In addition, she felt that many new skills are needed to equip staff to work across primary, community and secondary settings as well as social care.

The case for more training was also made by Michael Sobanja, chief executive of the NHS Alliance. He said: 'We need a higher quality of primary care management, not more managers. The focus should be on the overall task, the competencies needed to undertake that task.

He added: 'At the highest level it is about health improvement and not simply healthcare. This requires notions of working with communities and across agencies.'

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy chief executive Phil Gray was keen to examine the figures more closely.

He said: 'Sixty-eight per cent of physiotherapy graduates from the class of 2006 don't have jobs - a waste of£40m. We should be guaranteeing their first year of employment in the health service.'

He complained that figures in the DoH draft workforce strategy, revealed in HSJon 4 January, lumped together 16,200 allied health professionals and scientific, technical and therapeutic staff, rather than looking at their separate demands. 'We're talking about more than 30 professional groups - this is extremely poor forecasting.'

The Royal College of Midwives also wanted a breakdown of the figures, in order to distinguish between midwifery and nursing. Pressing for 10,000 extra posts, deputy general secretary Louise Silverton said: 'There is a continuing shortage of midwives while we have the highest birth rate since 1996.'

Topics