Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Social partnership working in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes

About the area

The Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Integrated Care System (ICS) is one of eight early systems, covering a workforce of more than 31,000 people across both health and social care. The ICS includes 15 organisations servicing a population of c. 916,000. 


The NHS Five Year Forward View, published in October 2014, set out a shared vision for the future of the NHS, based around the new models of care. Further developments led to the establishment of sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and Accountable Care Systems, which were renamed ICSs in February 2018. These partnerships bring together commissioners and providers, including local authorities, to develop more integrated ways of working to improve the health and care in their area.

The challenge

In BLMK, Health Education England (HEE) and the region’s HR directors recognised that it was essential that trade unions, as a key link to the workforce, should be involved in discussions on service change and this should take place at an early stage. They needed a mechanism to do this.

The process

HEE and HR directors from BLMK met with regional trade union representatives and following discussions, agreement was reached to establish the BLMK partnership forum. This forum provides a mechanism for trade union representatives to influence and provide insight into system transformation plans and policies, where they impact on the workforce, to maximise the benefits for the workforce of system change and minimise potential detriment. The forum also enables effective communication to, and engagement with, staff on or during organisational, system and cultural change. For the membership and meetings arrangements of the BLMK partnership forum, see its terms of reference.


In BLMK, trade union representatives have been involved in the following:

  • the development of a leadership and organisation development plan
  • a workforce strategy event held in November 2017 - trade union input and feedback has contributed to the BLMK workforce strategy, which is currently in development
  • they have asked questions, advised and commented on all BLMK priority work programmes in regular updates provided at the forum.

Further information and contacts



Related documents