Case Study: Developing partnership arrangements between employers and trade unions NHS Suffolk 

This content is part of the Vision for the Public Sector Zone 

Developing partnership arrangements between employers and trade unions in Clinical Commissioning Groups in Suffolk

In preparation for the establishment of clinical commissioning groupp’s (CCG’s) in Suffolk and the transfer of NHS Suffolk staff to these new employers, a work stream was initiated to embed partnership working and develop it to meet the needs of the parties within the clinical commissioning group.

The County of Suffolk has a population of around 730,000 people. The two CCGs employ around 300 staff most of who transferred from NHS Suffolk on 1st April 2013. The two CCGs have integrated commissioning support known as the management delivery team. One CCG hosts these staff on behalf of both. This case study was originally published on the social partnership forum.



In preparation for the establishment of Clinical Commissioning groups in Suffolk and the transfer of NHS Suffolk staff to these new employers, a work stream was initiated to embed partnership working and develop it to meet the needs of the parties within the CCGs. Trade union membership was relatively low within NHS Suffolk with few representatives, poor staff engagement and low morale. A major organisational restructuring was undertaken and transition itself was also a major challenge. Improving staff engagement and developing partnership arrangements were seen as a priority to help meet these twin challenges.

Project delivery

The work was led by the HR Director of NHS Suffolk, Amanda Lyes who worked in partnership with the officers of the emerging CCGs and with the Staff Side led by George Shepherd of Managers in Partnership. They were supported in this work by Mike Jackson, an HR Consultant at NHS Midlands and East who had previously been involved in the development of the national Social Partnership agreement.

Project outputs / achievements so far

With the support of the Chief Executive and the Board, the HR Director and trade union full time officers, primarily from MiP and UNISON worked together to improve trade union density and recruit new representatives of staff through a series of ‘open days’. This was highly successful as more representatives were elected and staff felt more confident and engaged in dealing with these challenges. Restructuring and transition were delivered successfully and compulsory redundancies were avoided. In addition the organisation was able to develop a set of enduring values through engagement with staff and the Board.

In preparation for transition, new partnership and trade union recognition agreements were developed. They built on existing mechanisms that worked well but drew on the experience of successful partnership working elsewhere to enhance the agreements.

Although all unions recognised nationally with members within the CCG may claim recognition, partnership working is primarily undertaken with MiP, UNISON and the BMA all of whom have local representatives.

The Partnership Agreement and the Trade Union recognition agreement developed may provide useful learning for other commissioning organisations. There are comments attached to both documents by way of explanation as to the thinking of the parties who developed these agreements.

Top tips

  • Building confidence with key trade union full time officials and working in partnership to help them organise and develop representatives of the workforce.
  • Using the partnership approach to deal with real issues – in this case major reorganisation and transition.
  • Reviewing existing agreements and building upon them drawing on best practice from elsewhere and the national SPF experience.

CCG were also finalists in the HSJ awards for staff engagement 2013.

This partnership agreement developed for new Clinical Commissioning Groups, developed with MiP case study was originally posted on the social partnership forum website.

Further information and contact information:
Amanda Lyes, amanda.lyes@suffolkpct.nhs.uk

Tel 014 7377 0244

Mike Jackson, mike.jackson3@nhs.net

Tel: 07703 194124

George Shepherd, MiP National Officer, g.shepherd@miphealth.org.uk

Tel: 020 7121 5137

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