The NHS is there for us from the moment we are born. It takes care of us and our family members when we need it most. The NHS was founded on a common set of principles and values, and the NHS 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 that the NHS is committed to achieving. It also sets out responsibilities, which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively.
These rights cover how patients access health services, the quality of care you’ll receive, the treatments and programmes available to you, confidentiality, information and your right to complain if things go wrong. In return, the NHS expects you to take responsibility of your own health and use the NHS with respect. This includes:
- registering with a GP practice
- following courses of treatment you’ve agreed to
- always treating NHS staff and other patients with respect
- keeping GP and hospital appointments – or if you have to cancel, doing so in good time
- giving feedback – both positive and negative – about treatment you’ve received
No government can change the Constitution without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public. The Constitution is a promise that the NHS will always be there for you.
You can also listen to an audio version of the constitution.
The NHS in England underwent a major reorganisation in 2013. To find out how the NHS Constitution reflects these changes read this guidance: ‘The NHS Constitution: what does it mean for the public health system?‘.
Your rights to choice in the NHS
Everyone who is cared for by the NHS in England has legal rights that cover:
- rights about access to health services
- rights about quality of care and environment, such as the provision of same-sex hospital accommodation
- rights about treatments and drugs
- rights about consent and confidentiality
- rights about patient choice
- rights about your own involvement in your healthcare – for example, through schemes such as personal health budgets
- rights to complaints and redress
The NHS Constitutions sets out all of the above in detail. You can view these rights in detail on the GOV.UK website.
Your right to choice is also set out in the NHS Choice Framework, which explains when you have a legal right to choice about treatment and care in the NHS. The legal right to choice doesn’t apply to all healthcare services; however, where you do not have a legal right to choice, you should at least be offered some choices, depending on what’s available locally. Download the NHS Choice Framework from the GOV.UK website.