Case Study

Achieving organisational change through partnership working

Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust used partnership working to successfully support organisational change.

20 September 2023


In January 2022, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust (LUHFT) made a commitment to partnership working. This was following changes in leadership of both management and the local trade unions. This new approach enabled the organisation to achieve significant organisational change.


The partnership approach undertaken by LUHFT helped them increase numbers of staff vaccinated against COVID-19. It also facilitated the transfer of around 8,000 staff to their new hospital or to the organisation’s sites across the city.

Action taken

In 2022 LUHFT opened its eagerly awaited new hospital a new building expected to greatly improve the city's healthcare services, not only to provide better care for patients, but it will create a more positive working environment for staff. The process of opening this new hospital has been complex, it involved the transfer of around 8,000 staff, which required substantial planning.

Accompanying the move into the new build the organisation transferred six key services across the organisation’s sites (Aintree Hospital, The Royal Liverpool Hospital and Broadgreen Hospital). This was done to ensure these services were more easily accessible for patients, reducing duplication and preventing inconsistencies of care. As a result, 700 staff members were mobilised across the city to their respective sites.

The successful movement of staff was achieved through collaborative consultation and engagement. It was made possible by the strong commitment, trust and positive partnership working between the HR team, trade unions and the operational management teams.

Trust management and trade union representatives, through joint communication signed off by the chief people officer and trade union chair, provided staff engagement and staff support which helped to reduce the number of non-COVID-19 vaccinated staff from 1800 to less than 200.

The role of partnership working

To enable positive partnership working, practical steps were put in place that allowed regular communication between management and trade unions. This strengthened the frequency of corporate staff partnership and local negotiation committee meetings and facilitated more regular informal dialogue with the trade unions.

The trade union chair, secretary and vice chair have become team members, that work together collaboratively with appropriate challenge. This is a significant improvement from previous years as it enables trade unions to participate in operational plans, share the views and challenges of their members, and have significant influence on the design and aspiration of the organisation's culture and integrated organisational development plans.

Partnership forums are co-chaired by the trade unions and management, including the chief executive. This signals a strong commitment to partnership working that can only benefit staff and patients.

Results and benefits

The organisation successfully opened its new build on 21 September 2022. Through collaborative planning and working with the trade unions the organisation delivered its 21 day move plan from the Royal Liverpool Hospital to the new hospital successfully and without risking patient safety.

The organisation transferred and integrated its six key services across the sites, which mobilised around 700 staff without significant risk or dispute. These services continue to develop, for example the development of the high acuity stroke unit, which provides specialist acute stroke services for not only the city of Liverpool but also patients across Cheshire and Merseyside.

In addition to these milestones, the trust has also reduced the number of disciplinary cases by focusing on resolution rather than sanction. This has led to improvements in their Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) and Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) scores as well as staff survey pulse checks.

In September 2022, the trust reported a 40 per cent reduction in disciplinary cases compared to the previous year, which was reflected in its WRES score. For example, the trust reported a score of 0.55 at that time; (a figure of 1 would mean no difference, above 1 would indicate that an individual is more likely to enter the disciplinary process if you are from an ethnic minority background).

The organisation was also one of the first in the country to face industrial action due to the national pay dispute, but mature debate and issue resolution enabled a successful outcome.

Sharing learning

Lessons learnt

Implementing practical measures like regular communication is important, but the key takeaway is for organisations to establish a deep-rooted commitment to partnership working underpinned by mutual trust. This will benefit the success of the organisation, its employees and its patients.

How the approach will be sustained

LUHFT's 2022 achievements demonstrate the power of positive partnerships. The organisation will continue to collaborate with unions on culture and organisational development. Staff experience and retention are key to overcoming challenges. 

Further Information

For further information please contact James Dawson, associate director of people, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.