The government, unions and NHS Employers have committed to a new forum for partnership working.

The agreement is part of efforts to develop a more constructive relationship, after a Unison motion attacking the 'marketisation of the NHS' was carried by an overwhelming majority at the Labour conference.

The Department of Health said the Social Partnership Forum would allow trade unions and employers to give views about the development of policy, comment on policies at a formative stage and contribute ideas on implications for the workforce.

Health minister Andy Burnham, who led the work to improve existing arrangements, said: 'Trade unions play a central role to giving NHS staff a voice.

'They have championed the cultural change necessary to improve services. The reassurance they give staff that their voice is heard at a national level is essential at this time of change in the NHS.'