Research Output

Organisational Change, Partnership Working and Agenda for Change in the Scottish NHS: A Phenomenological Study

  When the Labour Government won the election in 1997, one of the biggest challenges they faced was restructuring the public sector. This forced the new Government to move the public sector away from managerialism to become a more collaborative organisation, with greater employee engagement (Senior, 2008). This was when the work of developing new ways of partnership working was started in the NHS (Munro, 2002; Farnham et al., 2003).
In order to assist the restructuring of the public sector, the Government introduced change in response to human capital needs, this included the implementation of the Agenda for Change Programme which was the biggest alteration to the pay structure of NHS staff in 50 years. Agenda for Change covered over one million NHS employed staff (with the exception of doctors, dentists and some senior management positions), and aimed to offer fairer pay based on new job evaluation, and to move towards harmonised conditions of service for NHS staff, to build links between career and pay progressions (DoH, 2004a). A partnership approach was seen as being a critical success factor in implementing this change.
This thesis focuses on partnership working through the implementation of Agenda for Change in the NHS. It aimed to explore the perceptions of different levels of participants of Agenda for Change Implementation Teams in relation to organisational change and partnership working. Four research questions were considered to address the above aim:
1). What were the perceptions of the Organisational Change which occurred within the NHS?
2). What key aspects of Partnership Working were employed in the NHS to address Organisational Change prior to the implementation of Agenda for Change?
3). What were the key constituents of Partnership Working that facilitated Agenda for Change and how were they developed by its implementation?
4). What were the incentives and challenges in implementing Agenda for Change?
As a phenomenological study, this research intended to interpret people’s perceptions and experience of partnership working and Agenda for Change. Some 18 individual interviews were conducted with selected members of the implementation teams across three Health Boards in Scotland. Particular attention was given to the organisational change context, Agenda for Change, and partnership working in the Scottish context.
This research confirms the perceived view that there has been a period of continuous planned change within the NHS and these changes have transformed the culture of the organisation to become more business focused. Agenda for Change, was perceived, in the main, through the whole organisation, as a positive one offering an easier and fairer pay system allowing workforce flexibility. However there were indications that partnership working does not go on at all levels and where it is present it places a great strain on staff and resources which in the main, is in decline. The Agenda for Change structure has distinguished characteristics of organisational development. Unions and employees had much influence through the change process since partnership working existed at three levels: strategic, functioning, and workplace. However, findings suggest that despite the well maintain partnership at the strategic and functioning level, a partnership arrangement cannot be fully supported at workplace level. Workplace manager’s faced pressure from the Government’s targets and deadlines, as well as financial budget cuts; which were some of the challenges of encouraging partnership working at workplace level.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 June 2016

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    HD28 Management. Industrial Management

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    658 General management


Zhou, J. Organisational Change, Partnership Working and Agenda for Change in the Scottish NHS: A Phenomenological Study. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



"Agenda for Change", NHS partnership working, fair pay, organisational change,

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