Give your views on the draft NHS Constitution

The Chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is asking local people to give their views on the draft NHS Constitution.

The first of its kind in the world, the Constitution follows extensive discussions with NHS staff, patients and the public over the last year. It reaffirms the rights to NHS services, free of charge without discrimination of any kind. For the first time, it will bring together in one place and clarify for staff and patients their rights and responsibilities to ensure the NHS operates fairly and effectively.

The Government will be obliged by law to renew the NHS constitution every ten years so that any changes are the result of a full and transparent debate and cannot be changed by stealth. A new legal duty will be placed on all NHS organisations to take account of the Constitution in decisions that are made.

Chairman David Prior said: “It is now 60 years since the NHS was born and it is striking how its founding principles still endure and have resonance for staff, patients and public alike.

As the draft constitution states at the outset, the NHS belongs to the people. I would therefore urge everyone with an interest in preserving what’s best about the NHS, as well as ensuring that it is fit for the future, to participate in the consultation and tell us what they think.”

People can give their views on the trust’s website or attend the public AGM on September 25, 2008, in the Benjamin Gooch Lecture Theatre, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at 6pm.

For patients, the Constitution collects together important rights around access to drugs and treatments, health services, information, quality of care and environment, dignity & respect and complaint and redress. These include:

• The right to drugs and treatments approved by NICE for use in the NHS if clinically appropriate. Patients will also have a right to expect local decisions on funding of other drugs, where NICE has yet to issue guidance or where NICE will not be appraising a drug, to be made rationally following proper consideration of the evidence. If the local NHS decides not to fund a drug that a patient and their doctor feel would be right for them, the PCT will have to explain that decision to them. We will also work with NICE to speed up the process for appraising new drugs so that NICE can issue the majority of its appraisal guidance within a few months of a new drug’s launch;

• The right to make defined choices about your NHS care with clear options. This is a new legal right which will give patients the right to make choices about their healthcare based on information made easily accessible by the NHS so those choices are real and informed. This includes the right to choose your GP practice and express a preference for consulting a particular doctor. Enshrining the right in the Constitution will make sure that choice endures and becomes a core feature of a responsive NHS in the 21st Century;

• The right to be treated with dignity and respect and given a professional standard of care, by appropriately qualified and experienced staff in a clean and safe environment;

• The right to complaint and redress. The constitution sets out a number of rights and pledges to ensure patients and the public are able to make complaints and get access to swift redress if they are unhappy with their healthcare. We do not want to create a litigious culture with the development of an NHS Constitution, but we do want to ensure that it has enough teeth to make a difference.

At the same time, it is important that patients play their part too and recognise they have responsibilities to help the NHS work effectively. Although patients will still be treated based on clinical need, there will be an onus on them to contribute to their own good health and take some personal responsibility. Patients will also be expected to register with a GP and keep appointments, or cancel within a reasonable time.

For staff, the draft constitution recognises that it is their commitment, loyalty, professionalism and dedication that really makes a difference to patients’ quality of care and experience. A series of pledges are outlined which the NHS will strive to deliver to ensure that staff are provided with rewarding jobs and with the training and support they need to do their jobs as well as they can.

The constitution also reaffirms the enduring values of the NHS, based on discussions with staff, patients and the public. They include values such as respect and dignity, compassion, commitment to quality of care and putting patients first in everything the NHS does.

The draft NHS Constitution is a short declaratory document. All the rights and pledges are underpinned by existing law or policy, except the new right to choice. The consultation closes on 17th October 2008.

The consultation questionnaire and information about the draft NHS Constitution; including booklets for staff and patients can be found at

Saturday 16th of August 2008 06:00:29 AM