Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Supporting system change

The SPF is supporting effective partnership working in system transformation 

Social partnership working supporting the establishment of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs)

The ICS Transition Partnership Group (TPG), a subgroup of the national SPF, was established in April 2021, to enable partners to get involved in the organisational change arising from the establishment of statutory ICSs. The group includes representation from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS Employers, ICSs/clinical commissioning groups, commissioning support units and NHS trade unions. The aim of the group is to support staff during the organisational change, by minimising uncertainty and limiting employment changes, working to the principles of simple, local and evolution.  

Read the TPG’s terms of reference.

HR Framework for developing Integrated Care Boards

Published on 19 August 2021, the HR Framework provides the mechanism of transfer for staff moving to statutory Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), including expectations in relation to staff engagement and partnership working. The framework has been produced in partnership by NHSEI, employers and trade unions. The co-chairs of the TPG, Alan Lofthouse (Unison) and Tom Simons (NHSEI) have published a joint statement (see below) in support of the HR Framework being used by all those involved in the transition of staff in to ICBs.

Access the HR Framework and supporting documentation.

Joint statement from the co-chairs of the Integrated Care Systems (ICS) Transition Partnership Group (TPG) on the launch of the ICS HR Framework

We are pleased to have worked in partnership with colleagues through the ICS Transition Group (TPG), a sub group of the National SPF in developing the ICS HR Framework. The TPG membership consists of national trade unions, NHS Employers, Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), ICS HR Directors and senior leaders from NHS England and NHS Improvement. The group was established in April 2021 to effectively support staff impacted by organisational change arising from the 2021 Health and Care Bill.

The HR Framework provides a mechanism of structured support for affected staff with professional advice, guidance and best practice, in relation to the human resource and employment law considerations required to enable the safe transfer of people to the new NHS Integrated Care Boards (ICBs). It also outlines key activities, responsibilities and/or considerations required at a national, regional, system and organisational level.

We ask that system leads, employers and HR and OD colleagues continue to engage with trade unions in regional, system and local partnership arrangements during the implementation of the framework, in order to support staff with a safe and supportive transition process with minimal disruption.

The ICS TPG will continue to support this work by ongoing monitoring of the framework through Regional SPF channels and ask that any general feedback or concerns our fed through your Regional SPF.

ICS Design Framework and guidance on the employment commitment

On 16 June 2021, NHSEI published the ICS Design Framework which sets out some of the main ways NHS leaders and organisations will operate with their partners in ICSs from April 2022. Published alongside the framework is guidance on the employment commitment. This document, which was developed in partnership through the ICS Transition Partnership Group of the national SPF, provides guidance on what the employment commitment is, its application in practice and how it affects people. To access the ICS Design Framework and guidance on the employment commitment, see NHSEI’s website.

FAQs on the ICS transition employment commitment

Answers to frequently asked questions on the Guidance on the employment commitment: Supporting the development and transition towards statutory Integrated Care Systems have been developed by members from NHS Clinical Commissioners HR and OD Network, NHSEI leads working on the ICS development programme and members of the Social Partnership Forum ICS transition partnership group. Read the FAQs

Process for selecting chair designates for ICBs

NHSEI have published a set of leadership competencies, roles and responsibilities, and desired values and behaviours, as a guide in selecting chairs designates for Integrated Care Board (ICBs). 

Read more on the NHSEI website.

System change - jargon buster

The SPF has produced a jargon buster guide on system change. This guide is aimed at staff working across the NHS and the wider health and care system, to assist them with understanding new terminology and system improvement plans. It was last updated in July 2021.

If there is anything you think should be added to the jargon buster, please tell us by emailing

Developing the NHS People Plan in partnership

Listen to our podcast, recorded at a SPF People Plan workshop, to hear Danny Mortimer (NHS Employers) in conversation with Sara Gorton (UNISON), Claire Sullivan (CSP) and Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe (Unite), on trade union involvement in the NHS People Plan.


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