Promoting partnership working in the NHS

South East Coast/South Central Partnership Conference - Improving Staff Experience: A Partnership Approach - June 2016

NHS Employers were delighted to host the first partnership conference of the South East Coast and South Central areas on the 27 June at 110 Rochester Row, London.  Chaired by Andy Brown, HRD at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust and management side representative for South East Coast Social Partnership Forum, the theme for the event was Improving Staff Experience: A Partnership Approach.

The aim of the conference was to bring together management and trade unions to consider some of the important issues around staff experience, its impact on organisational performance and patient care, and to consider how they can come together effectively to promote, build and sustain good practice and principles for the year ahead.  It attracted wide representation from HR and trade union colleagues and feedback from delegates has been very much around feeling engaged and being inspired to share ideas. 

The programme provided a mix of plenary sessions setting the national context and interactive workshops, allowing delegates the opportunity to gain practical skills and insights and take part in lively discussions, whilst sharing experiences and ideas. 


Claire Sullivan, Director of Employment Relations and Union Services, CSP, and Jon Restell, Chief Executive, MiP, delivered Why partnership working matters in the next 12 months and beyond.  The session presented a workforce horizon scan of the NHS, and gave a trade union perspective on the opportunities and challenges for partnership working between employers and unions. This included a focus on the implications and impact of Brexit for the NHS, and delegates were invited to debate their priorities and concerns and identify where partnership working would be most useful.  Concerns around recruitment and retention were highlighted, and the need to engage, support and reassure staff, particularly our EU colleagues, following the referendum result.

Rhiannon Barker, Director of Development, Point of Care Foundation, presented Small things are big things: staff engagement and why it matters.  In the session Rhiannon drew on a wealth of evidence to support the notion that staff engagement is the fuel that enables individuals to go the extra mile with patient care. She shared with delegates the Point of Care Foundation’s considerable experience in developing evidence based methods of engaging staff.


Five workshops were  repeated throughout the day, allowing each delegate to attend two of the five workshops.

Using social tools to extend employee engagement - Peter Furtado, Simply Succeed Consultants: More and more businesses are introducing social intranets or other social tools to galvanise collaboration, knowledge sharing and staff engagement. Some are more successful than others. This workshop explored the opportunities within the NHS and shared learning on maximizing the chances of success.

Is partnership working the way to wellbeing? – Ruth Warden, Assistant Director, NHS Employers:This workshop asked how well is your workforce, how do you know, and how do you engage with staff to ensure they are as well as they can be and continue to improve their wellbeing, working in the NHS? The session covered why engagement and partnership working is key to creating a culture that supports staff wellbeing, and provided delegates with tools and information to help create a healthy workforce.

Is the key to workforce retention en-gagement or gen-gagement? – Dr Kerry Jones, Birmingham Children’s Hospital: This lively session shared new insights on the support needs of early career professionals in the workplace, and explored why addressing these needs is fundamental to designing a resilient future workforce.  The session also explored considerations in supporting and developing a multi-generational workforce, a critical component to resolving current and future workforce supply challenges.

ThinkFuture – Heidi Williams, Senior Programme Officer, NHS Employers: This workshop addressed the questions what does the workforce of our future look like, and how do we engage with the future workforce to make sure health and care are attractive career options for them? Heidi shared with delegates the evidence-based, innovative work delivered as part of the ThinkFuture programme at NHS Employers. The programme provides the tools and information needed for organisations to attract and recruit young people.

What's the line between firm management and bullying? – Tony Cooper and Zoe Riddle, ACAS: This session looked at how to manage performance effectively, and provided delegates with top tips on how to identify and tackle workplace bullying.

The conference received very positive feedback, with 92 per cent of delegates rating the event as good or very good. This feedback indicates a commitment to working together towards another joint conference. We now expect to see South East Coast and South Central RSPFs going forward with renewed energy and purpose.