Principles and values that guide the NHS

The NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When it was launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948, it was based on 3 core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

These 3 principles have guided the development of the NHS for the past 70 years and remain at its core.

In March 2011, the Department of Health published the NHS Constitution. It sets out the guiding principles of the NHS and your rights as an NHS patient.

The 7 key principles of the constitution are underpinned by core NHS values that have been derived from extensive discussions with staff, patients and the public.

You can find an in-depth explanation about each principle in the Handbook to the NHS Constitution.

Page last reviewed: 05/04/2018
Next review due: 05/04/2021