How we do partnership

Learn more about the national SPF and the benefits partnership working.

18 December 2023

The national SPF

Although national social partnership arrangements have been in place since 1998, a refreshed approach to partnership working was needed following the major announcement on transforming community services in 2006. The announcement caused concerns and difficulties for stakeholders in the NHS for England. The concerns were addressed by Patricia Hewitt, the then health secretary, and the ensuing discussions, facilitated by the TUC, led to an agreement which established the SPF.

The national forum brings together representatives from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England, NHS Trade Unions (representing NHS staff), and NHS Employers (which provides the employers' voice). The forum:

  • gives an opportunity for employers and trade unions to contribute their experiences and ideas on the development of policy that impacts on the health workforce
  • gives partners the ability to assess the likely impact of emerging policy on the NHS workforce and to mitigate risk
  • enables more effective implementation of policy
  • supports high standards of employment practice.

Learn more about the national SPF's work and priorities.

Benefits of partnership working/staff engagement

In 2011, the Aston University Business School conducted research, which provided evidence of the link between good staff experience and good patient experience. Research has identified links between engagement and absence levels, employee engagement, sickness absence and agency spend in NHS trusts (March 2018) and has highlighted the links between NHS staff experience and patient satisfaction: analysis of surveys from 2014 and 2015 (February 2018).

The NHS Constitution emphasises the importance of staff engagement and partnership working and requires the NHS to commit to 'engage staff in decisions that affect them and the services they provide, individually, through representative organisations and through local partnership working arrangements.' The potentially serious impact of a disengaged workforce was highlighted in the Francis Inquiry Report (2013).