Partnerships, collaboration and integrated working have featured within NHS policies and documents for many years, but the NHS Planning Guidance 2017-19 states that this way of working should now become ‘the new norm’.  So, what are the ingredients of a successful partnership?

A report, produced by the Health Foundation in conjunction with the Health Services Management Centre (HSMC), looked at case studies using different partnership models:

  • Individual partnering – has the potential to be a cost-effective way to encourage innovative ideas but needs to be carefully managed in order to ensure it does not fall victim to other work pressures
  • Voluntary partnering – has the advantage of shared intrinsic interests to address a common identified need but will require co-ordination and close monitoring of governance
  • Structural partnering –  relies on formal agreements to support investment to achieve deep-seated, sustained change across systems/organisations.  This should include shared project management.
  • Mandated partnering – positive support and encouragement is provided by regulators to assist the recovery of a struggling organisation. This may involve the culture of the highest performing organisation being imposed upon the struggling partner, or the development of a new, shared culture across all partners.

In order to make a successful partnership the report suggests the following recipe:

Leadership  – good, cross-organisational leadership is vital – particularly in ensuring the buy-in of staff across all the partnership organisations.  Key individuals must have confidence that the partner organisations are supportive and understanding of conflicting work pressures and deadlines, and will prioritise the common goal rather than act out of self-interest.

Confidence – The report suggests that, if possible, it is prudent to progressively develop partnerships over a period of time, starting with simple joint projects followed by increasingly complex pieces of work.  This will ensure confidence in the partnership structure and governance.

Data – accurate, timely and complete!  This can prove challenging particularly where different information systems are in place amongst the partners.  An agreed, achievable dataset, including reporting timescales is crucial.

Environment – Commissioning and contracting should demonstrate an awareness of potential distractions or interference from external sources and ensure measures are put in place to limit their impact upon the outcomes.

The report concludes that “to have a meaningful impact on the quality of care, the right form of partnering needs to be used in the right context”.

To read the full report please click here.