Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Red Route - Staff engagement and partnership working

All staff delivering NHS services should be engaged by their employer in decisions affecting them and the services they provide. This is in line with the commitments in the NHS staff pledges in the NHS Constitution which apply to all providers of NHS services.

What do we mean by staff engagement and partnership working?

Good staff engagement encompasses a range of activities from sharing of information and gathering views from staff on issues that affect them to, for staff who are members of trade unions, working in partnership with their representatives on local workplace issues, adhering to legal requirements in respect of trade union membership and representation.

The best performing organisations have staff that are engaged with their employer and empowered to put forward ways of improving how things are done. They feel that they are fully consulted over issues affecting their work, and that their views are listened to and responded to. This applies equally to both NHS and non-NHS providers of healthcare to NHS patients. Research has shown that high levels of staff engagement have a positive impact on organisational effectiveness, patient satisfaction and contribute to the delivery of high quality patient care - see useful information in the resource library.

All organisations should develop an approach to how they will foster staff engagement. Key components of effective staff engagement in the NHS include:

  • good leadership and good communication
  • valuing staff contribution
  • involvement of staff in decision making
  • seeking and responding to feedback from staff
  • partnership working with staff representatives

How will staff engagement and partnership working change when I transfer?

All providers of NHS services are expected to work closely with their staff on issues that affect them whether they are members of a trade union or not. This is in line with the NHS staff pledges in the NHS Constitution. If you are a member of a trade union, union recognition will transfer from your existing NHS employer to your new employer, if both your previous employer and your new employer recognise your union. Recognition will also apply if, following the transfer, the transferring organised grouping of resources or employees retains a distinct identity from the remainder of the new employer’s business. However, if this does not apply your trade union can negotiate a new recognition arrangement. If you are unsure how this will apply in the case of your transfer you should speak to your trade union representative.

All providers of NHS services are expected to work closely with staff and their representatives on issues that affect them in line with the NHS staff pledges in the NHS Constitution. One of the principles set out in the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook is that 'employers should ensure that the representatives of trade unions and other staff organisations, recognised for purposes of collective bargaining at local level, are released appropriately to participate in the partnership process, and that nominated officers of local staff representatives can be fully involved in the local partnership arrangements.'

Regardless of who your new employer is following transfer, you can expect:

  • A commitment to joint working - Your new employer is committed to the principles of effective joint working as set out in the NHS Constitution and Handbook and the NHS Partnership Agreement. This means that your employer should talk to you, your trade union, your professional representative body and other stakeholders, as appropriate, about decisions that affect you and the services you provide.
  • Your right to become and/or remain a member of a trade union - Your employer will respect your right to either remain a member of a trade union or to join one if you wish (regardless of whether the union is recognised by your new employer or not); to be represented by a recognised trade union; and be entitled to other rights set out in employment law concerning information and consultation. The website includes information about trade unions and legal rights concerning union membership.
  • Your right of access to trade unions - If you are a member of a trade union you have a right to access and make use of the services offered by your union, such as advice (including legal advice), support and assistance, at an appropriate time, regardless of whether your trade union is recognised by your employer.
  • NHS Staff Survey - Your new employer will undertake the annual NHS staff survey and you may be invited to take part. A summary of the survey results and actions in response to the results should be available to staff locally and your organisation’s results will be published nationally.
  • Openness - Your new employer will commit to achieving a climate of openness where you feel able to raise concerns, in a reasonable and responsible manner, on any aspect of service delivery without fear of recrimination. Your new employer should have an appropriate whistleblowing procedure in place. The NHS Standard Contract requires every provider of NHS funded healthcare services to have at least one freedom to speak Up guardian with whom staff can raise concerns, if they feel these have not been addressed through the trust's reporting mechanisms. See the Care Quality Commission's website for the freedom to speak up guardians directory for NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts.