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Seizing the potential of partnerships

By Hilary Rowell, director, ZPB

Today ZPB launches The Power of Partnership: how to seize the potential – the second in a series supported by Sodexo but guided by an independent reference panel chaired by Sir William Wells.

What has struck us as we worked on this report is the level of interest and enthusiasm that the topic has raised. Not only were we able to bring together a really impressive and varied reference panel, but more than 280 board-level leaders from all sectors responded to a survey we put out. This is clearly a hot topic.

What has been crystal clear is that the interest is in true partnerships – formal arrangements between equal partners, in which common goals are defined and both risks and rewards shared. There was no room in any of the debates for patronising the NHS or for lazy assumptions about which sector was ‘better’. The report includes practical advice for each. The evidence we gathered demonstrated that not only is it possible for the NHS and private and third sectors to build partnerships based on shared values but that it is essential. The case studies included in the report clearly demonstrate this.

And it looks as if forming cross-sector partnerships is fast becoming central to NHS strategies for service improvement. More than half of NHS respondents to our survey told us that they saw the greatest potential for partnerships in clinical services. The point that came up time and again in our conversations was a recognition that traditional outsourcing and contracts based on fixed specifications of inputs and outputs just cannot be expected to create the breakthroughs in quality and productivity that the NHS – and its patients – need.