Public Social Partnership

A Public Social Partnership is a strategic arrangement which embeds the Third Sector – and thereby the needs and assets of people and communities – in all stages of the design and delivery of public services.


A Public Social Partnership (PSP) involves public and third sector bodies co-designing services or interventions to deliver agreed social outcomes. This approach encourages effective partnership working across sectors, places the third sector at the heart of service design and delivery, and explicitly emphasises outcomes rather than activity.

The Third Sector has known for a long time that it makes sense to include people in the design and delivery of the services they use. The whole user-led movement is based on that understanding.

Prompted by some of the learning from the (English) Total Place pilots, and particularly spurred on by the thinking within the Christie Commission on the future delivery of public services, the Public Sector increasingly recognises the long-term benefits of engaging meaningfully with people and communities in the design and delivery of services they use.

The Scottish Government, too, is keen to encourage a range of approaches which enable people and communities to have greater agency and voice.

A Public Social Partnership is one way for public sector planners and commissioners to engage earlier and more deeply with Third Sector agencies acting in the interests of the people they serve. This approach puts people at the heart of service design and delivery.

If we follow the Analyse-Plan-Do-Review cycle of service design and delivery, then a PSP approach should help people to share in every aspect of the process –identifying need, designing actions, sharing in delivery, monitoring and evaluating, as well as re-framing need and re-designing actions.

Another way of putting this is that ‘Community Benefit’ is not just a desirable add-on, or an afterthought, but is central to the whole process of planning, designing and delivering public services.

The Scottish Government issued detailed guidance last year on forming and operating Public Social Partnerships, which is well worth a read.

Royal Edinburgh Hospital

The programme to reprovide the Royal Edinburgh Hospital services is being taken forward using a Public Social Partnership approach. The NHS Lothian team leading on this work is excited at the opportunities inherent in using this inclusive, participatory approach. Scottish Government, also, is keen to see this work deliver meaningful benefit to a range of interlinked communities – including people who receive Royal Edinburgh Hospital services, the staff who deliver these services, families and carers, residential communities around the Royal Edinburgh Hospital campus, and – importantly – the range of Third Sector organisations participating in the range of services which are being reprovided.

This programme is being taken forward under NHS Lothian’s Mental Health & Well Being strategy – A Sense of Belonging.


EVOC’s role

After consultation with the Third Sector Interfaces across the Lothians, EVOC has agreed to take a lead role in relation to Third Sector engagement with the PSP. To this end, EVOC will attend meetings and engage with the reprovisioning programme as it develops. In turn, EVOC will engage both with Lothians Interfaces and with Edinburgh’s Third Sector.

Dedicated web-pages on EVOC’s website will act as a key platform for communication with and between Third Sector interests across the Lothians.

Additionally, regular meetings will be set up where Third Sector organisations can find out about progress of the programme, share their views, and influence the forward development of this exciting and innovative piece of work.

Partners in NHS Lothian leading on the PSP are keen to engage meaningfully with Third Sector interests in a spirit of CoProduction. The Third Sector will need to engage in equal and respectful ways as the programme develops. That way we can, together, take steps to maintain and improve the mental health and well-being of people across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

The key contact person for the Third Sector will be EVOC Director, Ella Simpson.