Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Building a respectful and passionate workplace - St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust

"One Team is about giving great service to our colleagues and treating each other with respect." Jane Pilgrim, Staff side chair

About the trust

St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust is the largest healthcare provider in southwest London. Its main site, St George’s Hospital in Tooting, shared with St George's, University of London, is one of the country’s principal teaching hospitals. It trains medical students and carries out advanced medical research.

With 7,000 staff, it serves a population of 1.3 million across southwest London and also provides about 3.5 million people , including those from Surrey and Sussex, with services such as cardiothoracic medicine and surgery, neurosciences and renal transplantation.

Some specialist services are provided to a larger catchment area in South East England and across the country.


When a disappointing staff survey result revealed an increase in bullying between colleagues. St George's realised that urgent action needed to be taken.


With help from a consultancy, the One Team project was set up to gain information from patients and staff about problems in the hospital and to listen to their ideas for improvement. It aimed to build esteem and capability within the workforce, leading to behaviour that delivers high-level customer service to colleagues and patients/carers.

The One Team board, which included 50 per cent staff side representatives and 50 per cent HR and management, started by focusing on fixing the basics:

  • identifying what good/great service looks like and what behaviours support this
  • building consistency and standards inside a flexible framework
  • creating and improving people processes, so they are simple and fit for purpose
  • addressing and resolving key issues that impact the workforce
  • injecting magic into the experience
  • building a service that is personal to everyone – colleagues and patients/carers
  • tapping into and releasing the creativity of the trust-wide population, partners and patients
  • creating a culture of self-improvement.

Engaging managers in the project proved challenging at first, predominantly because of their very busy schedules but also because they didn't grasp the importance of their role in the project. By working closely with the managers the One Team was able to condense their training model and find ways of adapting the project to fit in with their busy schedules.

Staff side are now using any opportunity they can to spread the word about the project and are keen to engage all staff. Unions have been running road shows within departments and inviting managers and medical staff along.  The trust is also planning to train about 30 to 40 trainers to deliver the One Team training.

Top tips

For successful partnership working:

  • include everybody from the start of the programme
  • listen to concerns and act upon them before giving your own view
  • communicate concerns to staff and listen to their innovative ideas in creating solutions
  • create a vision together so you have a clear and shared goal to work towards

And avoid:

  • making decisions without asking for the views of staff and making assumptions about them and their opinions
  • having meetings for the sake of it. Ensure that every time you get together, you have a clear purpose and a clear outcome

The One Team project is currently in hiatus while St George's undergoes a substantial staff engagement excercise called Listening into Action.

Further information and contact details

Jane Pilgrim, Staff Side Secretary -

Alan Thorne, Director of Transformation -