Sustaining the academic workforce: developing a new employment framework

1 March 2023

Influencing policy and supporting our members in sustaining the academic healthcare workforce is one of the Council’s key strategic priorities. This guest blog by Professor Debbie Porteous, Head of Department Nursing, Midwifery and Health and Vicky Petersen, HR Manager at Northumbria University, offers one way of supporting this and we thank them for sharing their approach.

At Northumbria University, in collaboration with our NHS partners, we have developed an employment framework to enable nurses, midwives and the allied healthcare professions to establish and sustain a clinical academic career. We have produced a presentation to explain how we have gone about this and what the impact has been. We have also listed some key FAQs:

Q. How long did it take to develop and implement the framework at Northumbria?

A. Discussions and development took place over 2 – 3 years, with Covid-19 and other organisational demands and priorities, impacting on progress. Also the lack of in-house legal expertise in relation to joint clinical academic appointments slowed development. Progress was much quicker once an external legal expert was engaged to support the development of the framework. With hindsight we could have developed the framework more quickly had we engaged legal support sooner.

Q. What obstacles did you face?

A. Numerous obstacles were encountered on our journey to date, some key obstacles included:

    1. Lack of an established existing framework for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
    2. Lack of in-house legal expertise in relation to joint clinical academic appointments.
    3. Different demands and priorities across both organisations at different times – including Covid-19 and its impact.
    4. Developing joint role descriptions which reflect both Trust and University requirements.
    5. Different salary scales and grading structures and other people processes, policies and procedures across the different organisations.

Q. How did you determine which NHS partners to work with?

A. This developed from our long-standing relationships with local NHS Trusts and our shared vision and aspirations.

Q. How did you determine which organisation the substantive contract would be with and which the honorary contract would be with?

A. This was discussed with all parties on a case-by-case basis. Current pension scheme provider was a key consideration for the individual.

Q. What documentation did you need to develop?

A. Some key documentation developed included: joint appointment agreement template, honorary and substantive contracts, terms and conditions, joint job descriptions and joint recruitment and selection materials.

Q. How did you develop a joint job description applicable to both organisations?

A. Through close consultation with the partner Trust, we agreed the purpose of remits of the roles. We adapted our standard academic job descriptions and incorporated key elements from the Trust’s job descriptions.

Q. How did you determine the salary?

A. The salaries have been agreed to take into account both the academic and clinical aspects of the role. Where the University is the substantive employer, the salary is within the University salary scale and where the Trust is the substantive employer, the salary is within the Trust salary scale (i.e. where the University is the substantive employer, we have ensured the salary within our salary scale aligns with the clinical salary for the clinical role).

Q. What contractual arrangements are in place?

A. An individual has a substantive contract with either the Trust or University and an honorary contract with the other respective organisation, with appropriate terms and conditions. There is also an overarching Joint Appointment Agreement in place agreed by all parties.

Q. What terms and conditions are applicable?

A. We have developed specific terms and conditions for joint clinical academic appointments for when the substantive contract is with the University and when the honorary contract is with the University at different job levels.

Q. How do you determine what Trust and University policies and procedures are applicable and when?

A. These are set out within the Joint Appointment Agreement and the relevant Contracts and Terms and Conditions. The overarching principle is that the Trust policies and procedures apply to clinical practice and the University policies and procedures apply in relation to academic practice.

Q. What management arrangements are in place?

A. Management arrangements are joint and shared across both organisations and reflected in the Joint Appointment Agreement. Continued tripartite discussions are essential to develop shared objectives and agree activities and priorities on an ongoing basis.

Q. Who can I contact for any further information about Northumbria’s approach?

A. Please contact: Professor Debbie Porteous, Head of Department Nursing, Midwifery and Health – or Vicky Petersen, HR Manager –

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