​​The NHS Constitution

The NHS Constitution brings together the principles and values of the NHS in England. Under the Health Act passed by Parliament on January 19 2010, all providers and commissioners of NHS care now have a legal obligation to have regard to the NHS Constitution in all their decisions and actions.

The NHS Constitution sets out the rights to which patients, the public and staff are entitled, and the pledges that the NHS is committed to achieve. All NHS bodies, and private and third sector providers supplying NHS services, need to follow the principles of the constitution. No government will have the right to change the constitution without the full involvement of staff, the public and patients.

The Constitution contains:

  • 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
  • NHS 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 the needs of their area.
  • rights to which patients, the public and staff are entitled and are protected by law
  • pledges that the NHS is committed to achieve (but that are not legally binding)
  • responsibilities that the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively.

New patient rights

With exception of three new rights, all the other rights and pledges are underpinned by existing law or policy. The three new rights are to:

  • make choices about NHS care and to have information to support those choices
  • receive vaccinations that the national advisory body recommends
  • expect local decisions on funding of drugs and treatments to be made rationally.

Patient responsibilities

As well as setting out patients' rights, the constitution also sets out the responsibilities of people in looking after their own health and working with NHS staff. This includes registering with a GP practice, keeping appointments, following the course of treatment prescribed to you, treating staff and other patients with respect, and taking part in important public health programmes like vaccinations.

For more information, download a copy of the NHS Constitution and the Handbook to the NHS Constitution​​.