In January 2009, The Department of Health published the NHS Constitution which sets out a ten-year plan to provide the highest quality of care and service for patients in England.
For the first time in the history of the NHS, the NHS Constitution aims to capture the purpose, principles and values of the NHS, and brings together a number of rights, pledges and responsibilities for staff and patients. Seven key principles which underpin core NHS values have been derived from discussion with patients, staff and the public:
- The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief.
- 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
- NHS services must reflect the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers.
- 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 mosteffective, fair and sustainable use of finite resources.
- The NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves.
The NHS Constitution legally requires all NHS bodies, and private and third-sector providers supplying NHS services, to take account of the Constitution in their decisions and actions. This legal duty is contained within the Health Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on 15 January 2009. The Health Bill proposes measures to improve the quality of NHS care, the performance of NHS services, and to improve public health.
Furthermore, the Government will have a legal duty to renew the Constitution every 10 years but will not be able to change the Constitution without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public.
Alongside the NHS Constitution, a handbook has been published as a guide for NHS staff and patients and provides information on patients’ rights and pledges, the responsibilities of patients and the public and staff and staff rights and NHS pledges to its staff. An appendix in the handbook outlines the legal source for both the patient and staff rights in the NHS Constitution.
The NHS Constitution is available from the following link: