The NHS belongs to the people and the NHS Constitution, published in January 2009, brings together what staff, patients and public can expect from the NHS. It explains that by working together we can make the very best of finite resources to improve our health and wellbeing, to keep mentally and physically well, to get better when we are ill and when we cannot recover to stay as well as we can to the end of our lives. The Constitution reaffirms that the NHS belongs to us all and everyone has a role to play in its success.
As well as capturing the purpose, principles and values of the NHS, the Constitution brings together a number of rights, pledges and responsibilities for staff and patients alike. These rights and responsibilities are the result of extensive discussions and consultations with staff, patients and public and it reflects what matters to them.
Principles that guide the NHS
- The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all
- Access to NHS services is based on clinical need, not an individual’s ability to pay
- The NHS aspires to the highest standards of excellence and professionalism
- The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does.
- The NHS works across organisational boundaries and in partnership with other organisations in the interest of patients, local communities and the wider population
- The NHS is committed to providing best value for taxpayers’ money and the most effective, fair and sustainable use of finite resources
- The NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves
There are a number of rights for patients addressing the following areas:
- Access to health services
- Quality of care and environment
- Nationally approved treatments, drugs and programmes
- Respect, consent and confidentiality
- Informed choice
- Involvement in your healthcare and the NHS
- Complaint and redress
There are also a number of responsibilities for patients and the public to ensure that the precious NHS resources are used widely:
- Personal responsibility for health
- Registering with a GP
- Treating staff and other patients with respect
- Providing accurate information
- Keeping appointments
- Following courses of treatment
- Participating in public health programmes
- Making others aware of wishes on organ donation
- Giving feedback
The Constitution will be renewed every 10 years, with the involvement of the public, patients and staff. It is accompanied by the Handbook to the NHS Constitution, to be renewed at least every three years, setting out current guidance on the rights, pledges, duties and responsibilities established by the Constitution. These requirements for renewal are legally binding. They guarantee that the principles and values which underpin the NHS are subject to regular review and recommitment; and that any government which seeks to alter the principles or values of the NHS, or the rights, pledges, duties and responsibilities set out in this Constitution, will have to engage in a full and transparent debate with the public, patients and staff.
The Constitution establishes the principles and values of the NHS in England. It sets out rights to which patients, public and staff are entitled, and pledges which the NHS is committed to achieve, together with responsibilities, which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively.
The Handbook is for anyone who wishes to have more detail about the rights and pledges in the Constitution. It provides an explanation of each right and pledge in the NHS Constitution and the legal sources of both patient and staff rights. It also outlines the roles we all have to play in protecting and developing the NHS.