Promoting partnership working in the NHS

North West SPF

The North West Social Partnership Forum (NW SPF) is a sub group of the North of England SPF.  The NW SPF sub group was set up by employers, trade unions and NHS Employers engagement team North, to pursue their common purpose of developing a world class health service, delivered by a world class workforce, in the NHS in the North West of England.

Effective partnership working will produce important benefits. These include improved services for patients and users and ensuring high standards of employment practices in the health services in the North West.

The NW SPF sub group will ensure that the principles underpinning the Partnership Agreement Framework agreed by the Department of Health, NHS Employers and NHS Trade Unions operate effectively within the North West region.

The partnership recognises respective roles and responsibilities, establishes shared values and common purpose and sets some key principles for effective joint working. It provides the basis for a continually improving partnership which will lead to long term solutions that work both for staff and, more importantly, for users.


The North West SPF is co-chaired by Mike Gibney, Director of Workforce at The Walton Centre, and Amy Barringer, Regional Organiser/Lead for Health North West, UNISON.   

To provide a modern partnership approach to issues affecting the NHS workforce where a North West-wide view is needed or would be useful.

In particular it will:

  • Contribute trade union and employer perspectives to the development and implementation of policy
  • Provide constructive comments on implementation at a formative stage
  • Contribute ideas on the workforce implications of the implementation of policy
  • Promote effective communications between partners
  • Promote good practice across the North West
  • Feed North West region views into national groups including Staff Council, the Social Partnership Forum and the Stakeholder Forum
  • Support and contribute to the work of the North of England Social Partnership Forum
  • Contribute to the strengthening of commissioning within the North West.
  • To keep the patient at the centre of everything we do.

To enable effective operation of these partnership arrangements, the partners agree to recognise and respect each other’s roles and functions which are distinct but complementary.

The partners recognise that:

  • NHS organisations have responsibility for implementing national policy
  • Trade unions have a responsibility to represent and act in the interest of their members
  • Other stakeholders will have views which will need to be taken into account

Shared approach

This partnership agreement is underpinned by shared values and common purpose. In particular, partners:

  • Have a shared commitment to continuous improvement, including access to high quality services and delivering value for money to the public
  • Believe the NHS should promote good practice in all areas of staff management, including equality and diversity, staff development and a commitment to security of employment
  • Agree that the NHS should take a collective approach to support staff that may be affected by service changes.

Principles for effective joint working

All partners recognise the importance of good formal and informal working relations, built on trust and shared responsibility, while still respecting difference. All partners commit to adopt these principles in their dealings with each other:

  • Building trust and a mutual respect for each other’s roles and responsibilities.


  • A positive and constructive approach
  • Early discussion of emerging issues and maintaining dialogue on policy and priorities
  • Openness, honesty and transparency in communications
  • Where appropriate, confidentiality and agreed external positions
  • Making the best use of resources 

Membership of the North West Social Partnership Forum Sub Group will comprise trade union representatives, commissioners, arm’s length bodies and employers and will include representatives from

  • Directors of HR (HRDs) from NHS trusts/providers in the North West
  • North West trade unions (full list in the Terms of Reference)
  • Local leaders from Health Education England, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Commissioning Support Units, NHS England and NHS Improvement and NHS Employers
  •  Senior representation from Local Government
  •  Representatives from STP/ICS footprints

Other appropriate employer representatives Other stakeholders will be invited as appropriate.

The partnership may set up ad hoc working groups from time to time to consider particular issues where a North West view is required.

The North West SPF (NW SPF) sub group meetings are held bimonthly, with short life task and finish groups formed as required for specific pieces of work.

2020 meetings will be held 09.30am-12.30pm – North West SPF sub group meeting, 12.30pm-1pm - Networking lunch Venue: UNISON NW Regional Centre, Arena Point, 1 Hunts Bank, Manchester, M3 1UN

  • 5 February 2020 
  • 1 April 2020
  • 20 May2020
  • 8 July 2020
  • 23 September 2020
  • 18 November 2020
  • 27 January 2021

Members of the Social Partnership Forum are committed to continuous improvement and to ensure that meetings and relationships remain productive it has been agreed that members will take part in an annual behaviour audit.

The partnerships behaviours toolkit was developed in partnership with ACAS and sets out ten behaviours that are required for effective partnership working to take place.

Individuals are asked to rate the forums effectiveness at demonstrating these behaviours and this promotes discussion about ways to improve and strengthen partnership working in the regional SPF.


Membership of the NW Social Partnership Forum sub group includes Trade Union Representatives, Commissioners and Employers and will include representatives from:

• employers in the NHS in the North West, from a cross-section of organisations and job roles

• North West trade unions party to the Agenda for Change agreement, plus the BMA and MiP

• commissioning representatives from Clinical Commissioning Groups, NW Health Education, Commissioning Support Units

• NHS Employers Engagement Team North.

Chairing Arrangements

The North West SPF sub-group is co-chaired by Amy Barringer, Regional Organiser / Health Lead, UNISON NW and Mike Gibney, Director of Workforce and Innovation at the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust.

  • Commissioning reps – replace NW Health Education’ to ‘North Health Education England’ and please add in ‘NHS England’ too.

For any information on the North of England SPF, or any sub-regional SPF’s, please contact:

North Engagement Team

NHS Employers

2 Brewery Wharf

Kendell Street


LS10 1JR


Twitter: @NHSE_Engagement

Tel: 0113 306 3000