My role


NHS constitution promises equal access

The NHS has a constitution setting out the rights and responsibilities of those who work in the service and the patients who use it.

NHS constitution logoIt ought to be good news for male patients who find it more difficult to access health services. The 12-page document promises, as its first principle, that the NHS will provide 'a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief.'

Later on, we are told that as patients we 'have the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against in the provision of NHS services including on grounds of gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability (including learning disability or mental illness) or age.'

The document ought to have some clout. The government say that all NHS bodies, and private and third-sector providers supplying NHS services in England will be required by law to take account of the constitution in their decisions and actions. The government will have a legal duty to renew the constitution every 10 years. They also say that: 'No government will be able to change the constitution, without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public.'

The constitution is worth reading as it not only sets out the seven principles of the NHS but is also very clear about how its staff should treat its patients.

Those worried about privatisation of the NHS may be pleased to read that the second principle is: 'Access to NHS services is based on clinical need, not an individual's ability to pay. NHS services are free of charge, except in limited circumstances sanctioned by Parliament.'

Gordon Brown said the signing of the constitution marked a 'momentous day in the 61st year of the health service. There is not a family in this country that does not depend on the NHS for cure, for care, for help, for advice, for mentoring.'

Page created on January 26th, 2009

Page updated on December 1st, 2009