Promoting partnership working in the NHS

North East SPF

North East SPF

The North East Social Partnership Forum (NE SPF) is a sub group of the North of England SPF and was established in April 2016. The NE 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 service, delivered by a world class workforce, in the NHS 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.

NE 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 new types of service provision and tackling bullying in the NHS. Read the NE SPF case study here


The North East SPF sub group is chaired jointly by co-chaired by Lisa Crichton-Jones, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust; Sheila Wilson, Regional Organiser, UNISON and Adele Heeley, Regional Coordinator, BMA. Karen O’Brien, Deputy Director of Workforce at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, is the management side 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:

  • Keep the patient at the centre of everything it does
  • Develop a strategic agenda on key priorities in the North East including service reconfigurations, workforce issues and specialist commissioning.
  • Contribute trade union and employer perspectives to the development and implementation of policy
  • Provide constructive comments on implementation at a formative stage
  • Contribute ideas on the workforce implications of the implementation of policy
  • Promote effective communications between partners
  • Promote good practice across the North East
  • Feed the North East region views into national groups including Staff Council, the Social Partnership Forum and the Stakeholder Forum
  • Support and contribute to the work of the North of England Social Partnership Forum
  • Maintaining high levels of staff engagement throughout commissioning decisions.

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 NE
  • Commissioning Support Units
  • Local Government Agencies
  • NHS England
  • NHS Employers

The North East 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. 

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 behaviour audit toolkit was developed in partnership with ACAS and sets out the 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 at the North of England SPF.

The partnership behaviours toolkit is an excellent resource for building good working relationships in social partnership forums and has been adopted by a number of SPFs across the country.

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


North Engagement Twitter: @NHSE_North

Tel: 0113 306 3000