Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Partnership working in Staff Engagement - South West London & St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust

About the trust

South West London & St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust employs 2,183 staff and provides mental health services to five London boroughs, as well as specialist mental health services on a regional and national basis.


The trust’s 2012 staff survey results reflected a workforce who did not feel engaged, had low morale and felt that senior management were very distant and disconnected from the realities of frontline services.

Project delivery

In response to this, the trust’s new chief executive committed to embark on a staff engagement programme called Listening into Action (LiA). The work of LiA is overseen by the chief executive, who chairs the programme’s sponsor group.

Trade union representatives were involved in the programme from the beginning, and had representation on the sponsor group, along with executive directors and other staff from all areas of the trust. Management and trade unions have worked in partnership on implementing LiA over the last three years, with trade unions being enthusiastic ambassadors for the programme.

Project outputs and achievements so far

The LiA programme has included annual staff conversations, hosted by the chief executive, in which staff are able to identify issues that impact on the quality of services and agree actions to address those issues. Additionally, the LiA team works with individual teams to enable them to make local changes to improve the way they work.

Not only has LiA methodology been used to engage with staff to address key issues highlighted in the trust’s staff survey results. More recently, LiA has also had a key role in engaging with staff about the trust’s transformation programme, using staff expertise and experience in the redesign of services.

Trade unions have played an active role in the staff conversations, helping to facilitate and encourage their members to attend and acting as sponsors to individual teams who are working with LiA. Trade union support and full involvement with LiA has given the programme an additional level of credibility across the organisation, so that it is viewed as a genuine attempt to improve staff engagement in the trust.

 The trust has seen significant improvements in its staff survey results over the last two years, and the impact of LiA has been noted by the Care Quality Commission in their recent inspections. In November 2014, the trust was shortlisted for an HSJ Staff engagement award, and in July 2015 was identified as one of the Top 100 Best Places to Work.

Top tips

  • Focus on the issues and challenges which you can influence
  • Maintain consistent and transparent communication between management and staff side to support effective partnership working
  • Visible and high profile commitment from senior leaders is essential for genuine and sustained staff engagement.

Further information and contact information:

Chris Barton: Assistant Director, Education & Workforce Transformation

020 3513 4509