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 which the NHS is committed to achieve, together with responsibilities which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. All NHS bodies, together with private and third sector providers supplying NHS services, are required by law to take account of this Constitution in their decisions and actions.
This website brings to life the NHS Constitution by allowing you to access electronically the document. There are separate pages on the principles that guide the NHS; NHS values; patients and the public; and a page dedicated to staff. It also allows you to localise any queries you have by linking to the NHS Choices website and to record any feedback.
As the Chairman of NHS North East, I take personal responsibility for ensuring that the NHS Constitution is positioned at the heart of the NHS in our region. The Constitution will be renewed every 10 years, with the involvement of the public, patients and staff. It will be accompanied by the Handbook to the NHS Constitution, to be renewed at least every three years, setting out current guidance on the rights, pledges, duties and responsibilities established by the Constitution. These requirements for renewal will be made legally binding. They will guarantee that the principles and values which underpin the NHS are subject to regular review and recommitment; and that any government which seeks to alter the principles or values of the NHS, or the rights, pledges, duties and responsibilities set out in this Constitution, will have to engage in a full and transparent debate with the public, patients and staff.
The Constitution was developed as part of the NHS Next Stage Review led by Lord Darzi. To help ensure that the Constitution would be meaningful and enduring, it was based on evidence of what matters to patients, the public and NHS staff. There was an extensive development and research process. This involved talking to patients, the public and staff, discussion events with stakeholders, and getting ideas from experts and think tanks. A draft of the Constitution was published for consultation on 30 June 2008. The consultation process extended this conversation about the Constitution wider still, with over 1,000 direct responses to the Department of Health, and a wide range of consultation activity at a local level in the NHS allowing thousands of people to take part in the discussion.
A Constitutional Advisory Forum, made up of a number of leading experts and stakeholders, was set up to oversee the consultation process. The Forum was asked to produce a report for the Secretary of State for Health at the end of the consultation. Published in December 2008 as The National Health Constitution: Report of the Constitutional Advisory Forum to the Secretary of State for Health, it summarised the reflections of Forum members who had attended consultation events, and received formal representation from groups and organisations on their thoughts about the Constitution. It also summarised the findings of the consultation exercises within the NHS, which were overseen by strategic health authorities.