Promoting partnership working in the NHS


The SPF has adapted its way of working during the pandemic through establishing the COVID-19 SPF Engagement Group to enable employers and trade unions to engage with senior leaders responsible for the NHS response to the pandemic. The national SPF has also met more frequently during the pandemic, using online platforms to enable the sharing of key intelligence and prompt action. 

COVID-19 guidance for workforce leaders

To support NHS workforce leaders face challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI), Health Education England (HEE), Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Employers collated related workforce advice into one central resource. The resource reiterates the importance of partnership working, is regularly reviewed and updated.

Infection prevention and control – February 2021

The co-chairs of the COVID-19 SPF Engagement Group wrote to Susan Hopkins, Test and Trace and PHE Joint Medical Advisor and Ruth May, chief nursing officer, NHSEI to ask whether PHE, along with NHSEI, DHSC and the devolved nations planned to review COVID-19: Guidance for maintaining services within health and care settings Infection prevention and control recommendations, as a result of the new variant of the Coronavirus originally identified in Kent.

The co-chairs received a response, which stated that the Infection Prevention and Control guidance had been updated to reflect the most up-to-date scientific understanding of how to prevent and control COVID-19 infection. The letter also stated that following extensive clinical and scientific review, no changes to the recommendations, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), had been made in response to the new variant strains at this stage. However, the position was under review. 

The letter was a timely reminder for employers to work in partnership with trade union health and safety reps, to ensure safe systems of work for their staff. Although the COVID-19 infection prevention and control recommendations set out levels of PPE, the SPF would encourage employers to work with their local trade union reps to respond to concerns from staff. Especially from those who may have less employee voice in the organisation.

All staff, patients and visitors need to follow the basic infection prevention and control measures such as social distancing and transmission-based precautions such as handwashing, surface wiping and face coverings. The SPF recommends that employers use their infection prevention and health and safety leads to work with local line managers, to ensure risk assessments for staff are regularly updated and any changes communicated with those affected.

COVID-19 vaccination programme workshop – January 2021

On 20 January 2021, NHSEI and HEE ran an online workshop to enable employer and trade union members of the national SPF to get answers to questions on the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Read a summary of the discussion.

Industrial relations statements by the national SPF

The national SPF issued information in September 2020 which clarified, that following the statements in April and July 2020, there would not be another England wide industrial relations (IR) statement. Partners were instead requested to keep under review local IR arrangements.

Risk assessments for staff

Guidance has been published to support employers to carry out risk assessments for staff whose role exposes them to COVID-19 and actions employers can take to keep staff safe. Access the guidance on the NHS Employers website.

Risk Reduction Framework for NHS staff at risk of COVID-19 infection – May 2020

An expert working group at the University of Leicester developed a Risk Reduction Framework for health and care staff at risk of COVID-19 infection. This framework was developed to support staff who may be at greater risk of infection or adverse outcomes from COVID-19, such as black and minority ethnic healthcare workers. The aim of the framework is to better protect the workforce.

COVID-19 App guidance

The NHS COVID-19 App team issued guidance on the use of the app in the workplace. Visit the website to find this guidance. The guidance includes clarification on when to pause the app while working in a healthcare setting as well as general information and FAQs.

NHS staff terms and conditions of service

Access the NHS Employers website for information on the operation of national NHS terms and conditions of service during the pandemic. 

Life assurance scheme detail and eligibility criteria

In the event of a staff member dying in the course of work related to COVID-19, a lump sum payment of £60,000 will be made to their estate where the Secretary of State is reasonably satisfied that certain eligibility criteria have been met. The scheme is administered by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA). Further details on the eligibility criteria can now be found on the NHS BSA website. NHS Employers has updated staff guidance for employers on their website to reflect the latest advice on the scheme, as well as producing a flowchart to clarify the claims process.

Indemnity for NHS staff providing social care services

NHS organisations deployed staff in social care settings to support them during the pandemic. In terms of indemnity for these staff, NHS Resolution confirmed that as care/nursing homes do not undertake NHS healthcare work, the NHS indemnity schemes it runs did not apply. The NHS Confederation wrote to the DHSC, and received a response from Helen Whately MP, Minister of State for Care, stating that, where NHS staff are loaned to work in care homes, working under the direction of the care provider to provide any of their services, they will be covered by the care provider’s indemnity arrangements.