Partnerships and relationships

Our mission, with our partners, is to improve health and secure high-quality healthcare for the people of England, now and for future generations.

NHS England and NHS Improvement relies on numerous strategic partnerships at local and national level to deliver our business, and our partners rely on us to deliver theirs.

We collaborate and co-operate with organisations at national and local level to improve outcomes, meet the requirements of the mandate and ensure that the NHS operates within its financial resources.

NHS England and NHS Improvement supports and relies upon local healthcare professionals making decisions about services in partnership with their patients and communities. Our teams work closely with CCGs, GP practices, local authorities and Health and Wellbeing Boards.

The work of NHS England and NHS Improvement is supported by a number of national NHS and third-party organisations including NHS Digital, NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA), NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), NHS Property Services Ltd. (NHSPS) and Primary Care Support England (PCSE) provided by Capita. Additionally, NHS England hosts NHS Interim Management and Support (NHS IMAS) and sponsors the Sustainability Unit on behalf of the NHS.

We strive for consistency and coherence in the way we manage our relationships with partners in order to deliver our ambitions in the NHS Long Term Plan. We will continue to ensure we engage proactively with key delivery partners. Closer working between NHS England and NHS Improvement should help external stakeholders to understand and navigate the organisation.

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises

Since its inception, NHS England has been committed to the principle of co-designing national health strategies with voluntary sector and patient groups, citizens and community partners.

The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector is an important partner for statutory health and social care agencies and plays a key role in improving health, well-being and care outcomes. Recent legislation and strategy documents such as the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Care Act 2013, Five Year Forward View 2014 and the Next Steps of the Five Year Forward  and most recently the NHS Long Term Plan have recognised this and promoted the role of VCSE organisations in improving outcomes.

VCSE organisations improve health outcomes and tackle health inequalities not only by delivering services but also by shaping their design and advocating for, representing and amplifying the voice of service users, patients and carers. Their input is essential to a vibrant local health economy. To support this NHS England has developed in partnership the following tools and resources:

  • Principles for VCSE Engagement
  • VCSE Health and Wellbeing Programme
  • VCSE advisory group

Principles for VCSE engagement

The Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector has always provided a range of different support to the NHS including in its role in helping community voices to be heard, in delivering services and in being partners in strategy development.

As we move towards the ambitions of the new NHS Long Term Plan the VCSE sector is more essential than ever, in supporting NHS England and NHS Improvement to meet its obligations through the Equality Act, address health inequalities and ensuring that our programmes meet the needs of our diverse people and communities.

These Principles for VCSE Engagement outline NHS England’s ambition to work towards a more inclusive approach to partnership working with the VCSE sector. To embed these principles we are developing a series of activities.

The Principles for Engagement are:

Principle NHS England will.. VCSE organisations will..
Be inclusive and reach into communities Ensure that its engagement with the VCSE sector is inclusive, engaging with organisations interested in the life course and whole person as effectively as those working to improve the treatment of individual conditions.  We will also avoid being too focused on our main national locations of London and Leeds.


Work inclusively with others committed to achieving the same goal.  Identify and work with other organisations, including members of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance, to address the different ways that health conditions affect people’s lives and identities.
Challenge inequalities Work with VCSE organisations to prioritise the voices of those who are otherwise seldom heard. Build a diverse user base and in engagement with NHS England prioritise those whose voices are otherwise seldom heard.
Demonstrate impact and build the evidence base Advise and support the VCSE sector to demonstrate how their involvement achieves greater impact and value and use the evidence presented by the VCSE sector.


Evaluate and measure the impact of interventions, beyond user satisfaction; extend our collective knowledge base by sharing, presenting and publishing data.
Adopt co-production Work with the VCSE sector from the outset of programmes as equal partners, following the agreed approach to co-production.


Work collaboratively with NHS England as equal partners in helping the health and care system make decisions.
Be transparent Be open about our ambitions, aspirations and any constraints in how and why we are engaging with the VCSE sector.


Be transparent about how they can support user involvement, the diversity of those they represent, and the scope of their involvement.
Challenge and be a critical friend Provide the opportunity to engage throughout strategy development and delivery of programmes and be receptive and open to supportive challenge.


Challenge our thinking, identify ways in which our programmes could inadvertently disadvantage communities, highlight good practice, and help to identify solutions together.
Working for the same goal Recognise that the VCSE sector are essential partners in helping us to meet our obligations through the Equality Act, address health inequalities and ensuring that our programmes meet the needs of the most disadvantaged at the sharp end of the inverse care law* Recognise that NHS England are working for similar goals – better health and care for all communities.  We can achieve much more in partnership.

*The inverse care law states that those who most need medical care are least likely to receive it and those with least need of health care tend to use health services more

For further information on these principles, or engagement between VCSE and NHS England, please contact

VCSE Health and Wellbeing Programme

The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Programme was launched in April 2017 and is the place where the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England work together with VCSE organisations to drive transformation of health and care systems; promote equality; address health inequalities and help people, families and communities to achieve and maintain wellbeing.

The objectives of the Programme are to:

  • Encourage co-production in the creation of person-centred, community-based health and care which promotes equality for all;
  • Enable the voice of people with lived experience and those experiencing health inequalities to inform national policy making and shape the delivery of services;
  • Build evidence of sustainable, scalable solutions to mitigate and prevent inequalities impacting on the health and wellbeing of communities.

The Programme seeks to achieve its objectives through two co-dependent funded mechanisms:

VCSE advisory group

In collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and a group of other organisations from across the voluntary community and social enterprise sector, established an Advisory Group to review and make recommendations on how the statutory and VCSE sector could work better together to maximise their partnerships.

The advisory group was responsible for the VCSE Review in 2016 and committed to delivering a refined Action Plan in 2018.