This article describes the literature specific to partnership working across the National Health Service, social services and voluntary and community sector in order to summarise the potential advantages and challenges of partnerships. We explore the meaning of partnership working and review the policy developments and investment initiatives underpinning the Government's emphasis on partnership working between statutory services and the voluntary and community sector. A number of barriers hinder effective partnership working and we examine some possible solutions to overcome these. We then address the key issues influencing the approach to increasing the voluntary sector's participation in partnership activities within mental health services and provide brief examples of good practice. Finally, we discuss practical issues relevant to planning partnerships and the role consultant psychiatrists can play in initiating and developing partnership working between the voluntary sector and statutory mental health services.