Building health partnerships - with voluntary and community sector partners and commissioners

The BHP programme took a facilitative approach, working with a cross-sector group. The core sessions included the following:

  • a diagnostic session to create a shared understanding of the national and local health policy context

  • a partnership development session to cement partnership working and develop an area-based action plan to address the key challenges

  • an expert seminar to tackle specific local needs and build local knowledge

  • a partnership development session to embed learning and review delivery of action plans

  • additional bespoke support and facilitation from an IVAR facilitator

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“The BHP programme created an open-ness with clinicians”

“Partnerships are better than when we started – contacts were lost through local NHS reorganisation”

“Insight into other VCS ways of working and a better understanding of LGBT issues”

BHP participants

What partners said at the diagnostic session of the BHP programme on 16th April 2013

Characteristics of partnerships working well   Characteristics of partnerships not working well
  • Organisations cross pollinate
  • Communication is key – use the phone!
  • The Wicker-man Festival is an example of a festival built around community activity
  • Shared sense of direction
  • Shared products and expertise
  • Shared thoughts and ideas
  • Looks pretty and lacks substance
  • Where one partner causes problems
  • Doing own thing
  • Same thing nothing new
  • All off on own track

Why we need better partnerships and what they bring

Through BHP we learnt that there were challenges:

Challenges (business)   Challenges (personal)
  • Historical relationship
  • Finding workable mechanisms for managing the partnership
  • Establishing trust
  • Overcoming cultural differences and political tensions
  • Getting things done when decisions need to be referred elsewhere
  • Living with ambiguity
  • Conflicting demands
  • Frustration as things can take time to move forward
  • Working with cultural differences
  • Influencing without authority

“Formal processes can provide the scaffolding for effective collaborative working but personal relationships are just as important in overcoming the challenges.”

BHP participant

Ways to do things – a partnership working checklist

✓ Agree shared values

✓ Take time to trust

✓ Make partnership a priority

✓ Get the right people in the room

✓ Establish shared goals - work on something specific

✓ Be flexible

✓ Learn together

✓ Recognise when you need a hand

✓ Acknowledge common ground

✓ Establish a few strong relationships

✓ Use informal contact as well as formal meetings

✓ Establish ground rules for resolving problems – so that business problems don’t become personal ones

✓ Be open and discuss problems as they arise

✓ Communicate and meet in ways that are mutually convenient

Making the case for co-production

The partnership between The LGF and SMCCG has strengthened through the BHP programme leading to a number of joint outputs featured in this guide and a jointly shared learning event in April 2014.

Discussion point

Consider your own partnerships with your local CCG (s). Do you have a contact or liaison person? Are you involved in patient/provider representation groups?


Review your health partnerships across the organisation using the checklist above - what’s working and what isn’t?


1.      Manchester Carers Forum has been and is involved in a number of Health and Social care initiatives locally in Manchester. These include:

➢  PAG – Provider Advisory Group

➢  The former Partnerships for Older People Projects

➢  Star Stroke work in South Manchester working in partnership with the former PCT Community and Acute stroke service providers

➢  Work with The Stroke Association

➢  Working across the city with the council and CCGs in the development of ‘Living Longer Living Better’ and new delivery models with South Manchester CCG.

➢  Engagement in the development of the Stroke Service 

2.      TransForum’s collaboration with tertiary clinicians and commissioners in Wales, through its partner organisation, Unique Transgender Network, has led to involvement on a partnership board – chaired by the Deputy CEO of Public Health Wales. Other representation includes commissioners, equalities leads, human resources and nursing practitioners as well as clinicians and service providers. The focus is service design and implementation. The board and TransForum also interact with NHS England on the Gender Dysphoria Protocol and Service Guidelines.

“This engagement helped us (trans people) go from no treatment for anybody for Gender Dysphoria – now we have a treatment pathway. Referrals are happening faster which reduces anxiety and increases well-being, and contributes to a socio - economic case for trans health.”


3.      Through Building Health Partnerships the LGF have developed a relationship with The Bodey Medical Centre which has strengthened through the process. Three GP’s attended the diagnostic session at the outset of the programme and this led to co-production around a HIV research project in South Manchester and a clinical rationale to support the LGB evidence case, funded though South Manchester CCG.

Practical consideration

What partnerships are you already part of? What impact do they have? What are the ways to be involved if capacity to actually attend meetings is scarce?

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