Promoting partnership working in the NHS

'Back to basics' partnership principles work for NHS Norfolk

About the trust

NHS Norfolk was set up on 1 October 2006. It covered the majority of Norfolk, excluding Great Yarmouth, and served a population of around 757,000 people.


In October 2010 NHS Norfolk was split into two entities; Norfolk Community Health and Care and NHS Norfolk. The shared staff-side forum moved to the provider and this left NHS Norfolk with no means to formally engage staff.

A staff engagement/partnership model was therefore needed that was relevant for a commissioning organisation, where trade union membership was low and staff side was limited to only one active representative from one trade union.

One of the key challenges was encouraging staff to see the relevance of trade unions at NHS Norfolk and to be willing to come forward as representatives.


To overcome this, regional officers were asked to deliver a number of workshops and surgeries to staff, highlighting the benefits of belonging to a trade union and the importance of trade unions in supporting staff.

At these trade union awareness days the HR team promoted the approved NHS Norfolk staff engagement model and gave information on how this impacts on staff and their work. 


Following the implementation of the project there were 12 active representatives at NHS Norfolk, a successful committee of seven regular staff side attendees and three management sides, including the chief executive officer and the director of finance.

This group was instrumental in supporting the delivery of the management cost savings at NHS Norfolk and gave staff confidence in the delivery of a robust and fair process of change.

The final outcome was the development of an active and collaborative staff side, working in partnership with the employer to ensure that staff were consulted and engaged in decisions that affect them.  All the parties involved were committed to maintaining robust partnership working, so that it formed a key aspect in the delivery of the organisation’s objectives.

Top tips

  • Be transparent with staff about the process
  • Keep staff up to date with regular communications using media such as a employers intranet - where available
  • Good planning is essential - be aware of and clear about processes, objectives and timelines.

Further information and contact details:

Michelle Pelling, HR Team Leader -; 01603 257000