Trusts could be asked to ringfence some vacant posts for newly qualified workers, under plans being considered by NHS Employers.

The proposal comes in a joint action plan to tackle employment problems for healthcare workers drawn up following an NHS Employers summit last week. The summit brought together 60 representatives from the NHS, social care, trade unions, local government, voluntary and independent sectors and higher education.

The number of opportunities for newly qualified health professionals has shrunk this year due to financial cuts imposed by trusts, according to NHS Employers.

The body's deputy director Sian Thomas said: 'It is crucial that we do everything we can to identify employment opportunities for newly qualified healthcare professionals and staff who are in the midst of change.

'The NHS is going through major restructuring and facing financial challenges and there is a responsibility on all employers to take steps to avoid losing talented people from the system.'

Another proposal in the plan is to set up 'talent pools' through the NHS Jobs website, of newly qualified workers or staff who are at risk of losing their jobs, so that trusts can draw on their skills.

There will also be an agreement to advertise entry-level posts without a requirement for previous experience, so newly qualified applicants are not deterred from applying.

Mike Jackson, lead professional officer in health at Unison, said that the action plan was a positive step - but was dismayed that health minister Lord Hunt had emphasised local solutions to the problems. 'The government has to accept responsibility for the job situation - the major factor has been the lack of financial planning centrally, not by trusts locally, so it has to play a part in tackling it,' said Mr Jackson.

He said some trusts, such as Worcester Acute Hospitals trust, had pledged to offer jobs to all newly qualified health professionals, even though they were in deficit.

Royal College of Nursing service delivery director Janet Davies said that the plan was the first step in tackling the problems new entrants had finding jobs. 'We need to rethink the deployment of nurses in acute and community settings and start to think about how newly qualified staff can best be used,' she said.

'We will need to look at the ring-fencing of jobs for newly qualified staff, as there are pros and cons to that - for example, it would bar staff who have been made redundant from applying.'