An historic signing ceremony to mark the launch of the NHS Constitution for England took place at Downing Street today. The Constitution, the first of its kind in the world, was signed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Health Secretary Alan Johnson and NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson.
The Constitution will give power to patients and the public by bringing their existing rights together in one place so they know what they are legally entitled to – and how they can exercise their rights as well as understanding their responsibilities. It also contains a range of pledges to patients, public and staff, which the NHS is committed to achieving. For NHS staff, the Constitution will mean an NHS-wide commitment to equipping them with the tools, training and support they need to deliver high quality care for patients.
Lord Darzi’s review of the NHS, High Quality Care for All concluded last summer that there was a case for an NHS Constitution to enshrine the principles and values of the NHS in England. The landmark document will put in one place what patients, staff and the public can expect of the health service. It is designed to safeguard the future of the NHS and renew its core values, making sure it continues to be relevant to the needs of patients, the public and staff in the 21st century.
Health Secretary, Alan Johnson said:
“This is a momentous point in the history of the NHS. Following on from Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review, the launch of the NHS Constitution shows how its founding principles still endure today and have resonance for staff, patients and public alike. It will ensure that we protect the NHS for generations to come.
“The content of the Constitution is based on discussions with thousands of NHS staff and patients across the country and will form the basis of a new relationship between staff and patients – a relationship based on partnership, respect and shared commitment where everyone knows what they can expect from the NHS and what is expected from them.”
The Constitution is the result of extensive consultation with staff and patients, which was led by strategic health authorities and overseen by independent experts on the Constitutional Advisory Forum (CAF). In response to the consultation and report published by the CAF, the final Constitution includes:
- A right to makes choices about your care and to information to help exercise that choice;
- A new legal right to receive the vaccinations that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends that you should receive under an NHS-provided national immunisation programme;
- A right making explicit your entitlement to drugs and treatments that have been recommended by NICE for use in the NHS, if your doctor says they are clinically appropriate for you;
- A right to expect local decisions on funding of other drugs and treatments to be made rationally following a proper consideration of the evidence;
- Clear and comprehensive rights to complaint and redress.
David Nicholson, NHS Chief Executive said:
“Ara Darzi asked me in his interim report to lead a work programme exploring the merits of a Constitution for the NHS. This has been a fantastic opportunity to listen to what matters most to our patients, public and staff and to use this to set out clearly the values and purpose of the NHS system.
“It also pulls together in one place what the patients who use the NHS, the public who fund it and the staff who provide it, can expect to receive from the NHS, and the contribution they can make themselves.
“I’m proud to sign off the Constitution today and am sure that it will be a powerful driver of change in the system, and help us to deliver care fit for the 21st century.”
Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of [General] Practitioners, said:
"By stating that patients have a responsibility to register with a GP practice, the NHS Constitution reinforces the central role of the GP and the importance of continuity of care in the NHS today and in the future.
"We become GPs because we want to help people improve the quality of their lives through better healthcare. GPs want to provide the solutions and lead improvements and innovations. Having the Constitution in place will help us improve standards and care for all our patients, whoever and wherever they are.
"The new NHS Constitution is something which all GPs, their practice teams and NHS staff can commit to and have confidence in. I'm convinced that it will be an important, defining point in the development of our NHS."
Sally Brearley, Chair of the Patients Forum said:
“The NHS Constitution is a very valuable re-affirmation of the principles and values of the NHS. I was delighted to be involved in the process of drawing it up. It demonstrates the commitment of Government to the NHS, and of the NHS to its patients. We know that the public supports the NHS. The Constitution provides an important opportunity for patients, public and NHS staff to focus on giving our best to the NHS, and getting the best out of it.”
Also published today are the Handbook to the NHS Constitution; a Statement of NHS Accountability; regulations, directions and guidance to support the new rights around choice, vaccines and the funding of drugs and treatments; and our response to the consultation and the CAF’s recommendations.
The Health Bill, published last week, will underpin the new Constitution by creating new legislation to ensure that the Constitution will be reviewed every 10 years and a duty on NHS bodies, as well as independent sector and third sector providers of NHS services, to have regard to the Constitution.
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