Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Partnership working leads to success in staff engagement at Oxleas Trust and Guys and St Thomas

Simon Hart Director of HR & OD tells us how partnership working is leading to improved staff engagement at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust. 

The development of a new partnership working approach at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust has laid the basis for our success in staff engagement and puts us in a good position to tackle continuing challenges. We are pleased with progress but much remains to be done. We need to ensure that we make a difference to the staff that provide care. There are intense pressures on the service and we must not be complacent. You always need to be filling up the well of goodwill and through partnership working we are able to do that.

The development of a new approach at Oxleas was triggered around 2005 with a relatively poor staff survey. There was a change of senior leadership both within senior management and on the staff side. The trust was seeking Foundation Trust status and knew we needed to bring staff with us and improve services, together with tackling issues such as reconfiguration and service change.

We developed the role of Head of Partnership to be a key part of the new approach. Our approach to partnership working encourages joint working on the development of employment policies. The policies are worked on in small working groups comprising a mix of HR, operational managers and staff. Policies are not taken to the full partnership body until more or less agreed. An example of a recently agreed policy is on changes to the incremental progress.

The key to the success of the new approach is trust and transparency. Trust has been built up with staff side and with line managers.  HR has increased its own professional approach to ensure credibility.

Transparency is key. Our Finance Director briefs staff and management with the same data and shows the working for the numbers. We then have a discussion around where the numbers lead us. Our staff side do not have a seat on the Board but are on the Remuneration Committee. We treat the relationship with the staff side as important and would for example be as concerned about the succession planning for the Head of Partnership role as we would about any other leadership role.

As well as staff side our various equality networks play a key role in informing our policy plans.

Our communication has improved and staff have come forward with ideas for improvement. The trust has gone for an all staff approach to the Staff Friends and Family Test and already we have found the “free text” data very useful. Together with our own data this helps us provide support where needed and share good practice.

I am sure our partnership working approach has contributed to improved staff engagement and our overall success. It is essential though that we focus on how it makes a difference rather than the procedures. Other trusts will find their own models that work for their own circumstances. We are always looking at how to improve and progress our own approach.

Listen to what Dino Williams Unison Branch Secretary at Guys and St Thomas has to say about the development of partnership working from a staff side perspective at Guys and St Thomas.

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Read more about staff engagement and partnership working in our SPF Guide on Staff Engagement and Partnership Working here.

For more information please contact steven.weeks@nhsemployers.org.