NHS Constitution

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 achieve, together with responsibilities that the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. All NHS bodies and private and third sector providers supplying NHS services are required by law to take account of this Constitution in their decisions and actions. 

As part of a series of measures intended to highlight the importance of whistleblowing in the NHS, the  Constitution includes:

  • an expectation that staff should raise concerns at the earliest opportunity,
  • a pledge that NHS organisations should support staff when raising concerns by ensuring their concerns are fully investigated and that there is someone independent, outside of their team, to speak to,
  • clarity around the existing legal right for staff to raise concerns about safety, malpractice or other wrong doing without suffering any detriment.

View the NHS Constitution.

The legal status of the NHS Constitution 

The NHS Constitution sets out current existing legal rights in one place.

There is a single new right regarding choice that will be put into law separately. All NHS organisations have a responsibility to enforce it, and a legal duty to take note of the constitution when performing their duties.

There is also a legal duty on the Secretary of State for Health to renew the constitution every 10 years. Independent and third sector providers of NHS services are ‘required to take account’ of the constitution in their contracting and commissioning arrangements.

The constitution provides a context for the new system of registration by the Care Quality Commission be introduced from 2010.

It contains a number of pledges, which are commitments the NHS will strive to achieve a standard though it cannot be guaranteed.

A Constitution handbook will be updated at least every three years with details of the rights, responsibilities, how the NHS will deliver its pledges and what patients can expect and do if things go wrong.

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