The NHS belongs to the people and the NHS Constitution was published in January 2009. It brings together for the first time in the history of the NHS in one place, 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.
Lord Darzi’s review of the NHS – ‘High Quality Care For All’ provided a ten-year vision to provide the highest quality of care and service to patients in England. To implement this vision, the NHS needs to transform services not only to provide a high quality health service but also value for money for the taxpayer.
Turning this vision into a reality means that the NHS must continue to change the way it works – how and where care is provided for example, but the fundamental purpose, principles and values of the NHS can and must remain constant. By setting these out clearly in the Constitution, we can all – staff, patients and taxpayers
– have the confidence that the NHS can meet the challenges of the future on the basis of a shared understanding and common purpose.
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. In response to feedback from them, the final Constitution has been strengthened. It will help to improve patients’ experience of the NHS and it now includes:
• A new legal right to receive recommended vaccinations,
• A new right to choice, and an additional right to information to help patients exercise that choice,
• A new right to NICE approved drugs and treatments when considered to be clinically appropriate and
• A new commitment to provide access to an NHS dentist for all those who want it
For NHS staff the Constitution means an NHS-wide commitment to equipping them with the tools, training and support they need to deliver high quality care.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, all NHS bodies, and private and third-sector providers supplying NHS services will be required by law to take account of the Constitution in their decisions and actions. The Government will have a legal duty to renew the Constitution every 10 years. No Government will be able to change the Constitution and therefore how the NHS works, without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public.
The ambition is that the Constitution 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 not a lawyers’ charter.
The Constitution will help ensure that we are all empowered to take control and make choices over our care. Beyond this, the ambition is that it will lead to real behaviour change among us all with each and every one of us making the very best of the NHS. We will build on the on momentum around the consultation and launch of the final Constitution to realise these ambitions.
Listen to people speaking at the reception event held on 11 November 2009.