New plans for the NHS

Behind the Headlines

Monday June 30 2008

As the NHS marks its 60th birthday, the government has unveiled its vision of a health service fit for the 21st century with the publication of a proposed 'constitution' for the NHS and an in-depth review of NHS services. The constitution, which lays down for the first time patients’ rights and the NHS’s founding principles, is in draft form and has gone out for public consultation. Lord Darzi’s root and branch review sets out his vision for the NHS over the next 10 years.

The NHS Constitution

What is it?

The proposed constitution sets out the "principles the NHS is based on, the rights and responsibilities of patients, the public and staff, and the values the NHS lives by". If approved, the constitution would be renewed every 10 years, following consultation with the public and NHS staff.

Why do we need it?

Many patients are said to be insufficiently informed about their rights and as a result some don’t always receive what they are entitled to. The constitution aims to correct this by empowing patients.

For the first time, patients’ rights are brought together, so everyone knows what they are entitled to and what to do if they don’t get what they should. It explains how the public can contribute to improving the NHS, while stating the responsibilities of the public, patients and staff.

It’s also being seen as a way of securing the founding principles of the NHS. For example, that access is based on clinical need, not on an individual's ability to pay.


What’s in it for me?

The draft constitution, which only applies to patients in England, includes a clear explanation of your legal rights, including your right to NHS-approved drugs and treatment, your right to make choices about your NHS care and your right to have your say in shaping local NHS services. It sets out patients’ right to NHS services without discrimination and to be treated with dignity and respect.


Are there any new rights?

A proposed addition is the right to make choices about your NHS care. The options available to you will depend on your individual needs.

Can I have my say?

Yes. The NHS constitution is still only in draft form. The public and NHS staff have until October 17 2008 to submit their views on the document, either by post or email. There will be consultation events running all over England. To find out more visit or contact your local NHS. The constitution will take effect following the consultation.

The Darzi review

What’s the review about?

The NHS Next Stage Review sets out the government's plans to reform the NHS in England over the next 10 years. The report follows a year-long consultation with patients and staff led by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord Darzi.

Who’s Lord Darzi?

Professor Ara Darzi is a colorectal surgeon and health minister. Born in Armenia, Professor Darzi studied medicine in Ireland. He has played a leading role in improving surgical standards as well as the modernisation of the NHS.


What’s the aim?

Lord Darzi wants to move from an NHS that has focused on increasing the quantity of care to improving the quality of care. He wants care to be personalised, fair, help patients to stay healthy and include the most effective treatments within a safe system.


How will this affect me?

  • The review sets out plans for 150 new GP-led health centres and 100 new practices, opening 8am to 8pm and offering patients appointments at surgeries near work as well as home.
  • In some cases, patients and families will be given greater control over their own care, with personal health budgets. Where appropriate, the NHS will pilot direct payments.
  • Improved access to NHS-approved drugs, in an effort to end the “postcode lottery” for new drugs and treatments. The approval process for new drugs will be speeded up and open to scrutiny.
  • Patients' views on the quality of care they receive will affect funding for hospitals and GPs.
  • Information on the quality of an NHS body's service will be published on the web and on clinical "dashboards" in hospitals and GP surgeries.
  • All providers of NHS care will have to publish quality accounts each year.


What do doctors say about the review?

The British Medical Association says the plans will have a negative effect on continuity of care, and is concerned that they will not provide value for money. It has accused the government of foisting the new health centres on areas where they are not needed - putting existing GP services under threat.


Analysis by NHS Choices

Edited by NHS Choices


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