You are here:

The NHS Constitution - the NHS belongs to us all

The NHS Constitution

The NHS is there for us from the moment we are born. It takes care of us and our family members when we need it most. The NHS was founded on a common set of principles and values, and 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 achieving. It also sets out responsibilities, which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively.

These rights cover how patients access health services, the quality of care you’ll receive, the treatments and programmes available to you, confidentiality, information and your right to complain if things go wrong. In return, the NHS expects you to take responsibility of your own health and use the NHS with respect. This includes:

  • registering with a GP practice
  • following courses of treatment you’ve agreed to
  • always treating NHS staff and other patients with respect
  • keeping GP and hospital appointments – or if you have to cancel, doing so in good time
  • giving feedback – both positive and negative – about treatment you’ve received

No government can change the Constitution without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public. The Constitution is a promise that the NHS will always be there for you.  

You can download the full NHS Constitution, as well as the Handbook to the Constitution and any Easy Read formats, from the GOV.UK website.

The NHS in England underwent a major reorganisation in 2013. To find out how the NHS Constitution reflects these changes read the guidance The NHS Constitution: what does it mean for the public health system? (PDF, 89,87kb)

Read more about the NHS in England and its new structure. 

Your rights to choice in the NHS

Everyone who is cared for by the NHS in England has legal rights that cover:

The NHS Constitutions sets out all of the above in detail. You can view these rights in detail on the GOV.UK website.

Your right to choice is also set out in the NHS Choice Framework, which explains when you have a legal right to choice about treatment and care in the NHS. The legal right to choice doesn't apply to all healthcare services; however, where you do not have a legal right to choice, you should at least be offered some choices, depending on what’s available locally. Download the NHS Choice Framework from the GOV.UK website.

Page last reviewed: 28/05/2015

Next review due: 28/05/2017

Facts about the NHS

The NHS is one of the world's largest publicly funded health services. Find out how the NHS in England operates

NHS complaints

If you're not happy with the care you've received, you have the right to complain. Find out how

About Healthwatch

Find out about this statutory watchdog, whose role is to ensure health and social care services put people at the heart of their care