Managers have been told to take more responsibility for the quality of their staff.

Alastair Henderson, deputy director of NHS Employers, was speaking at the NHS Confederation's annual conference about proposed regulation changes.

Employers face a number of challenges if they are to meet principles laid out in the white paper Trust, Assurance and Safety: the Regulation of Health Professionals, he said.

The paper was written in response to the Shipman enquiry and recommends closer monitoring of health professionals' skills, which would be subject to re-validation.

Mr Henderson told delegates: 'Professional regulation has got to be recognised. It's about standards and quality and patient safety.

'NHS organisations are responsible for quality and standards, therefore there's got to be more involvement by employers in that process, which in the most there hasn't been.

'It's not been felt to be the locus of employers, even though they are responsible for the quality of care.

'That's what's exciting about the white paper -.having to take an active interest in the quality of professionals.'

This would be particularly tough for primary care trusts, who would gain a role in the re-validation of GPs, dentists and pharmacists.

He said: 'I'm not sure that's entirely on PCTs' radars at the moment and it's potentially a very large job.'

But, while keeping a close eye on workers, managers would need to know when to stand back and let staff do their jobs.

Trusts also need to consider how the role of their medical directors will change if the white paper becomes law.

Medical directors would be responsible for collecting doctor's appraisals and passing on any concerns to the General Medical Council.

Mr Henderson said: 'We need to look at and review what the role of the medical director will be - this is a really important debate.

'What we don't want is lots of challenges to the role without employers clocking that that's what's happening,'.he added.