Frontline NHS staff must play a central role in the redesign of the health service, needed to deliver the government's proposed £20bn savings between 2011 and 2014, according to the NHS HR chief.
A report published earlier this week by NHS Employers admitted that headcount would have to be reduced to achieve these cuts, but said mass redundancies could be avoided by transforming the way the NHS works.
Clare Chapman, director general of the NHS workforce, said HR had a responsibility to make sure future workforce planning minimised redundancies.
She told Personnel Today: "The role of HR is to make sure workforce plans reflect the future shape of the service and that the transitions are done in a way that maximises employment, so movement [transfer of staff] is facilitated."
Chapman added that it is essential that trusts involve frontline staff now, to prepare for "difficult but possible" budget cuts.
She said: "The days of recognising that it's only a few people who have the answers are gone. Innovation is involving all, and improving ways of engaging staff at the frontline is critical."
She added that "the best example of change involved staff early on" and this could also help to engage and unite a workforce.
Personnel Today previously reported that short-term workforce planning in the NHS had led to skills shortages and a rise in vacancies.
Chapman said an integrated approach to workforce planning - ensuring that the long-term business needs of the service as a whole are taken into account - would be an essential component of the changes required.
The NHS Employers report, published on Tuesday, called for trusts to take action - including coducting workforce reviews - now to prevent redundancies.
It said: "Staff headcount will have to be reduced, but this should not and cannot mean mass redundancies nationally."