Promoting partnership working in the NHS

North East and North Cumbria SPF

The North East and North Cumbria Social Partnership Forum (NENC SPF) is a sub group of the North of England SPF and was established in April 2016. The NENC SPF sub group was set up by employers, trade unions and NHS Employers engagement team North to pursue their common purpose of developing a world class health and social care service, delivered by a world class workforce, in the North East of England.

The sub group believes there is not a one size fits all approach to social partnership and that arrangements in the North East may be different to those elsewhere in the North of England or in England generally.

NENC SPF continues to go from strength to strength, providing an invaluable means of engagement and partnership working in priority areas such as the development of the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Systems (ICS)and tackling bullying in the NHS.

Read the Creating the North East SPF - An exemplar model to follow for more information on the NENC SPF. 


The North East and North Cumbria SPF sub group is chaired jointly by Karen O'Brien, Director of People and Development, North East Ambulance Service; Terry Johnstone, Regional Organiser, UNISON and Adele Heeley, Regional Coordinator, BMA. Rachael Metcalf, Human Resources Director at South Tees Hospitals, is the management vice chair.


To provide a modern partnership approach to issues affecting the NHS workforce where a North East-wide view is needed or would be useful.

In particular it will:

  • Ensure that the principles underpinning the national Partnership Agreement Framework agreed by the Department of Health (now the Department of Health and Social Care), the arm’s length bodies, NHS Employers and NHS trade unions operate effectively within the region.
  • Support and enable a strategic agenda on key priorities in North East and North Cumbria including service reconfigurations, workforce issues and specialist commissioning.
  • To identify and promote successful partnership working, which is providing positive benefits to staff, service delivery and patient experience.
  • Contribute trade union and employer perspectives at a formative stage, on the possible workforce implications of the development and implementation of policy.
  • Promote effective communications between partners.
  • Seek and promote good practice across the North East and North Cumbria region.
  • Feed North East and North Cumbria regional views into the National SPF
  • Support and contribute to the work of the North of England SPF, which currently meets for a conference once a year
  • Contribute to the strengthening of commissioning within <North East and North Cumbria
  • To keep the patient at the centre of everything we do.
  • Ensure regional oversight and scrutiny of local partnership working in the STP/ICS footprints within the North East and North Cumbria 
  • At the discretion of the chairs, pick up ad-hoc pieces of work in partnership through designated Task and Finish Groups.

All partners recognise the importance of good formal and informal working relations, built on trust and shared responsibility, while still respecting difference. All partners commit to adopt these principles in their dealings with each other:

  • Building trust and a mutual respect for each other’s roles and responsibilities
  • A positive and constructive approach
  • Early discussion of emerging issues and maintaining dialogue on policy and priorities
  • Openness, honesty and transparency in communications
  • Where appropriate, confidentiality and agreed external positions
  • Making the best use of resources
  • Agreeing issues for onward cascade.

Trades Union Side

North East Health Unions

  • The Royal College of Nursing (RCN)
  • The Royal College of Midwives (RCM)
  • Unite
  • GMB
  • The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)
  • The Society of Radiographers (SoR)
  • The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SoCP)
  • Managers in Partnership (MiP)
  • The British Medical Association (BMA)

Management Side representatives will include:

  • NHS Directors of Workforce and their teams
  • Senior NHS leaders including:
  • Commissioning Representatives from Clinical Commissioning Groups (Accountable Officers)
  • Health Education NENC 
  • Commissioning Support Units
  • Local Government Agencies
  • NHS England & NHS Improvement 
  • NHS Employers

The North East SPF Sub-Group will keep membership under review.

Management Representatives

Management representatives will include:

  • Directors of HR (HRDs) from NHS trusts/providers in the North East and North Cumbria
  • Local leaders from Health Education England, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Commissioning Support Units, NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHS Employers
  • Senior representation from Local Government
  • Representatives from STP/ICS footprints
  • Other appropriate employer representatives

The North East and North Cumbria SPF Sub-Group will keep membership under review.

The North East SPF sub group meetings are held bimonthly, with short life task and finish groups formed as required for specific pieces of work. 

Venue: Committee Room, Unison Offices, 140-150 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 6TH


2020/21 dates: 

  • 11 February 2020
  • 5 May 2020
  • 11 August 2020
  • 10 November 2020
  • 2 February 2021 

Members of the Social Partnership Forum are committed to continuous improvement and to ensure that meetings and relationships remain productive it has been agreed that members will take part in an annual behaviour audit.

The partnerships behaviours toolkit was developed in partnership with ACAS and sets out ten behaviours that are required for effective partnership working to take place.

Individuals are asked to rate the forums effectiveness at demonstrating these behaviours and this promotes discussion about ways to improve and strengthen partnership working in the regional SPF.

For any information on the North of England SPF, or any sub-regional SPF’s, please contact:

North Engagement Team

NHS Employers

2 Brewery Wharf

Kendell Street


LS10 1JR


Twitter: @NHSE_Engagement

Tel: 0113 306 3000