Headline messages and key recommendations

  1. Organisations in all sectors must recognise and seize the potential of partnerships
    For complex, high spend and strategically important services, cross-sector partnerships offer greater potential for innovative breakthroughs in productivity and quality than traditional contractual relationships.

  2. Commissioners must stimulate and support partnerships
    Commissioners have a critically important role to play in encouraging and even requiring partnerships between providers by focusing on longer-term outcome- based contracts.

  3. The recent Department of Health procurement review was a missed opportunity to promote the value of cross sector partnerships
    The procurement system is broken, and ‘Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care’ goes some way to addressing this problem. However, the review focused almost exclusively on the procurement of goods rather than on more innovative approaches to partnering for the delivery of services.

  4. Commercial leadership at board and department level is important to success
    Commercial skills instilled at NHS board level, among executives, managers, procurement teams and non-executive directors helps ensure that you get the best deal for your organisation when going through procurement and setting up a partnership.

Recommendations for public, private and third sector partners

  1. Be strategic – you need to share a long term vision and an intent to effect significant change in the interest of patients

  2. Get talking to potential partners early, before formal procurement starts – both to shape the service and to test how you might work together

  3. Understand each other and avoid making assumptions – take time to appreciate each other’s particular culture and pressures

  4. Be open about both risk and reward – and support each other to address concerns or challenges from stakeholders and shareholders. Be alert not only to commercial risk but also political, clinical and reputational risk

  5. Create service specifications that primarily focus on outcomes and define your measures of success

  6. It is sensible to agree exit strategies in the event that partnerships do not work out.

  7. Be honest about capability and competency, and explore opportunities to draw in SMEs to partnerships to build diversity into the supply chain

  8. Secure ongoing board support and keep decision making connected with delivery through regular communication. Partnerships should be agreed by the board rather than created as an ‘executive experiment’

  9. Remember that trust and the ability to have frank discussions are the hallmarks of good partnerships – avoid relying on one or two key individuals to drive the partnership forward

  10. Share the successes and lessons from your partnership – including financial and commercial figures

Go to the power of partnerships report >>

The power of partnership report

Brochurecover-The-power-of-PartnershipIn 2013, the reference panel reconvened to produce a practical guide for NHS, private and voluntary sectors looking to enter partnerships.