Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Using the staff survey to improve engagement and partnership - Central and North West London NHS FT

The organisation

Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) has around 7000 staff providing physical and mental health care to people in London, Milton Keynes, Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and beyond.

The challenge

The NHS staff survey 2016 results showed staff had concerns including a lack of flexible working opportunities, some instances of intimidation, bullying, harassment and abuse, work-related stress and issues with staff retention. These concerns were highlighted by the board who recognised that staff and management would have to work together to overcome these challenges, to improve staff wellbeing and patient care.

The aim

The overall aim was to make CNWL a better place to work and to receive care by engaging staff and living the organisation’s values, compassion, respect, empowerment and partnership.

The process

The board recommended setting up a partnership steering group with representation from employer and staff side. The rationale was to develop a communication and engagement system with all staff, to capture their experiences and make improvements on issues that matter to them. Dedicated facility time was confirmed to support full involvement of trade union partners in planning, communications and events. Five trust wide focus groups were held, as well as local events within clinical divisions, where actions and priorities were identified for each division. A multi-tiered data collection method was used; discussing and debating in front of an audience; smaller group interactive sessions; writing down views anonymously on sticky notes; and responding to post-event surveys. The board were kept up to date on progress of the workshops, and board members attended staff events, demonstrating the high significance they placed on this work.


The partnership initiative had a positive and wide-reaching impact in encouraging staff to attend events in 2016/17, and 725 more staff completed the 2017 staff survey, representing a significant increase of 32 per cent since the 2016 survey. UNISON report their membership within the organisation also continues to grow.

Management and staff side have worked together to address bullying and harassment through jointly commissioned investigations, and have reduced the length of time it takes to complete formal processes. They have also developed and launched a new flexible working policy, a post incident trauma pathway to support staff who have been assaulted by patients and staying well at work scheme to support positive mental wellbeing amongst their workforce.

Top tips

  • Aim to engage with as many staff as possible and communicate in a variety of ways, as often as possible.
  • Listen and learn from the experience of staff at all grades.
  • Share positive outcomes, promote success and reward staff for their contributions.
  • Trust in partnership working, it will allow you to achieve more than you thought possible.

Further information

David Bell, Head of HR