Promoting partnership working in the NHS

NHS Constitution

Nhs ConstitutionThe Department of Health is running a social media campaign on the NHS Constitution. The campaign aims to increase awareness and understanding among the public, patients and NHS staff of the NHS Constitution. For more information and details on how you can support the campaign see the raising awareness of the NHS Constitution briefing pack. 

Read about how Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust are making the NHS Constitutional values come alive and be meaningful to staff in their day to day practice.

The NHS Constitution and Handbook were revised to reflect the reformed health and care system post-April 2013. The SPF remains committed to the aims set out in the NHS Constitution to improve patient care through positive staff engagement.

The NHS Constitution has been created to protect the NHS and make sure it will always do the things it was set up to do in 1948 – to provide high-quality healthcare that’s free and for everyone.

One of the primary aims of the Constitution is to set out clearly what patients, the public and staff can expect from the NHS and what the NHS expects from them in return. No government can change the Constitution without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public.

The SPF continues to work in partnership on the next phase of work which seeks to reflect Robert Francis QC report into failings at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and increase the impact of the Constitution among public, patients and staff as well as provide greater traction to the Constitution.

The SPF contributed to the revision of the handbook and particularly Part IV which sets out the elements of the Constitution that specifically refer to NHS staff.

There are seven staff pledges within the NHS Constitution. These set out the overall framework for how staff should be treated by employers within the NHS. This is important, since the evidence suggests that there is a clear connection between the experiences of patients and staff.

The pledges are made by all employers that provide NHS services, and are made to all staff that deliver NHS care, both professional and non-professional. The pledges are not legally binding but represent a commitment by the NHS to provide high-quality working environments for staff.

“The NHS commits to provide a positive working environment for staff and to promote supportive, open cultures that help staff do their job to the best of their ability.”

“The NHS commits to provide all staff with clear roles and responsibilities and rewarding jobs for teams and individuals that make a difference to patients, their families and carers and communities.”

“The NHS commits to provide all staff with personal development, access to appropriate education and training for their jobs, and line management support to enable them to fulfil their potential.”

“The NHS commits to provide support and opportunities for staff to maintain their health, wellbeing and safety.”

“The NHS commits to engage staff in decisions that affect them and the services they provide, individually, through representative organisations and through local partnership working arrangements. All staff will be empowered to put forward ways to deliver better and safer services for patients and their families.”

“The NHS commits to have a process for staff to raise an internal grievance.”

“The NHS commits to encourage and support all staff in raising concerns at the earliest reasonable opportunity about safety, malpractice or wrongdoing at work, responding to and, where necessary, investigating the concerns raised and acting consistently with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.”

(Section 4a of the NHS Constitution)

The national SPF is referenced in the handbook under the NHS pledge 'to engage staff in decisions that affect them' (page 116):

“The NHS commits to engage staff in decisions that affect them and the services they provide, individually, through representative organisations and through local partnership working arrangements. All staff will be empowered to put forward ways to deliver better and safer services for patients and their families.”

Partnership working through the national SPF is one of the ways the NHS can ensure it achieves this pledge as it encourages NHS organisations to work with trade unions representing staff to be involved in the development and implementation of the workforce implications of policy. Partnership working at a regional or local employer level also allows staff and their trade unions to have an authentic voice and role in joint problem solving, with the aim of improving services for patients.

The inclusion of staff pledges, expectations, responsibilities and legal duties in the handbook reflect the increasing body of evidence that improved staff engagement results in better patient outcomes.