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Health secretary Frank Dobson will launch a 'major review' of NHS workforce planning in response to a health select committee call for an integrated system.

The move has been welcomed as 'essential' by managers' leaders and as a 'belated recognition' of recruitment problems by health union MSF.

NHS Confederation chair of human resources Andrew Foster said the whole system needed to be redesigned since it had failed to forecast present staff shortages, particularly in nursing, where a staff shift to the private sector had not been foreseen.

The government has indicated that a 'whole sector' approach will be taken. Mr Foster described this as a 'radically good idea'.

He also argued that the review must take into account information held by unions about labour mobility and their members' intentions.

John Adsett, Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals trust's head of project development, said the review was 'long overdue'.

Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management president Ian Stone said workforce planning was an area where 'we have been woefully lacking in the past'.

'We must not fool ourselves that we've got a sealed system. We have not got a closed system because almost all our staff can work outside the health service,' he added.

The health committee's report on future staffing needs calls for a new system to incorporate the national overview now provided by the NHS Executive.

It also calls for a national strategy to bring a sense of 'consistency and cohesion at present notable for its absence'. In its response, published last week, the Department of Health says it will announce arrangements for the review 'shortly'. A report is expected next year.

The response says the NHS and NHS Executive need to be clear about service needs and the skills and staff needed to deliver them efficiently and effectively.

It says planning should cover the whole healthcare workforce, including those employed by private and voluntary providers, and all staff groups.

The response also says it is appropriate to re-appraise the roles of the various bodies now involved in workforce planning.

It accepts the committee's proposal that appropriate joint training throughout the UK 'should feature largely' in the review.

But it rejects the health committee's call for consultation with employers and staff to establish 'a rigorous but fair system of appraisal of efficiency measurement' because of action already taken.

Future Staffing Requirements: the government's response to the health committee's report on future staffing requirements. Stationery Office.£3.70.