What is in the Constitution?
The Constitution contains the following elements:
- A short overview, which outlines the purpose of the NHS and of the Constitution;
- The principles of the NHS, which are the enduring high-level ‘rules’ that govern the way that the NHS operates, and define how it seeks to achieve its purpose; these build on previous versions of NHS principles, including those set out in The NHS Plan (2000);
- NHS values which have been developed by patients, public and staff, are the values that inspire passion in the NHS and should guide it in the 21st century; individual organisations will develop and refresh their own values, tailored to their local needs, so the NHS values provide the common ground for co-operation to achieve shared aspirations;
- Rights and pledges for patients and the public, as well as their responsibilities; and
- Rights and pledges for staff, as well as their responsibilities.
Rights and pledges
One of the primary aims of the Constitution is to set out clearly what patients, the public and staff can expect from the NHS and what the NHS expects from them in return. The Constitution distinguishes between:Your rights
A right is a legal entitlement protected by law. The Constitution sets out a number of rights, which include rights conferred explicitly by law and rights derived from legal obligations imposed on NHS bodies and other healthcare providers. The Constitution brings together these rights in one place but it does not create or replace them.
You’ll find a description of the legal basis of each right in the appendix to this Handbook. For information on what each right means for patients and staff, see the relevant sections of the Handbook.Pledges
This Constitution also contains pledges which the NHS is committed to achieve, supported by its management and regulatory systems. The pledges are not legally binding and cannot be guaranteed for everyone all of the time, because they express an ambition to improve, going above and beyond legal rights.
This Handbook explains in detail what each of the pledges means and current actions to meet them. Some of the pledges, such as those relating to waiting times for treatment, are long-standing commitments on which the NHS already has a track record of success and strong mechanisms in place to ensure delivery. In other areas, the pledges refer to relatively new commitments that the NHS is working towards achieving.
The Constitution sets out expectations of how patients, the public and staff can help the NHS work effectively and ensure that finite resources are used fairly. This Handbook gives further information on those responsibilities.
Who does the Constitution apply to?
The rights and responsibilities in the Constitution generally apply to everyone who is entitled to receive NHS services and to NHS staff. In some other cases, there are further specific rules that apply. In particular, there are different rules for children, people who lack mental capacity, and patients detained under mental health legislation, which
this Handbook describes.
How will the NHS Constitution make a difference?
For the Constitution to succeed in its aims, it needs to become part of everyday life in the NHS for patients, the public and staff. Achieving this will require leadership, partnership and sustained commitment over months and years, to raise awareness of the Constitution and weave it into the way the NHS works at all levels. Publishing the Constitution is only the first step in the journey.
The entire document can be downloaded here:http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_132959.pdf