Press release

Independent group to look at the impact of the NHS Constitution

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has today announced the formation of a new independent expert panel which will contribute to a Government report on the NHS Constitution.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The NHS Constitution sets out in one place what patients can expect from the NHS, including rights:

  •  to be treated with respect and humanity;
  •  to have access to NICE-approved drugs;
  •  to make choices about their NHS care.

The Government will publish a review in the summer that looks at the impact the Constitution has made for patients and staff, and has asked Professor Steve Field, leader of the NHS Future Forum - a group of the country’s top health experts - to bring together a special working group to provide expert advice.

Andrew Lansley has also asked the new Future Forum group to advise him whether there is any scope for strengthening the NHS Constitution to support high quality services for patients. Together with new duties included in the Health and Social Care Bill, this will strengthen both the contents of the NHS Constitution and the role it plays in the NHS. A public consultation later this year will give patients and staff the opportunity to have their say about what can be done to improve and reinforce the Constitution.

The new expert working group of the NHS Future Forum is made up of medical professionals, patient champions, staff representatives and charities. At its first meeting today it began to consider what effect the NHS Constitution has had since it was launched in 2009.

One example of how the Constitution is being strengthened now is a new commitment to support whistleblowing and tackle poor patient care. The Government has today published additional duties to the Constitution for NHS staff to raise concerns at the earliest opportunity, be supported by managers and have claims fully investigated.**

Andrew Lansley said:

“I believe in the NHS Constitution, which enshrines the principles which will always hold true for the NHS. This isn’t about starting from scratch - this is about revitalising these rights and pledges. Patients are at the centre of our reforms, and with the help of the independent panel we will look to strengthen the NHS Constitution to make sure it is working for the benefit of patients and staff.

“Today we have made it easier for staff to raise concerns about poor patient care. Whistleblowing will play an important part in creating a culture of patient safety, and this is why it has been added to the NHS Constitution.”

Steve Field, the independent working group chair, said:

“Throughout the work of the Future Forum, we have consistently said the NHS Constitution should be embedded into how the NHS works, and so I am pleased that we have been asked to contribute to this review. The experience and - crucially - the independence of the group will ensure a thoroughly professional and balanced insight into what effect the NHS Constitution has made and how it can be improved.”


1.    The independent NHS Future Forum was created to listen to the views of key stakeholders around the country and report back. Having consulted extensively, the Forum published its initial report in June 2011. The Government accepted the Forum’s key recommendations and made substantial changes to the Health and Social Care Bill to carry these forward.

2.    The new working group of the NHS Future Forum is made up from a mixture of original Future Forum members, ex-members of the Constitutional Forum under the previous administration and others who were invited because of their expertise and insights so that the group reflects a broad range of perspectives.

3.    The Health Act 2009 requires the Secretary of State to publish a report “on how the NHS Constitution has affected patients, staff, carers and members of the public” every three years. The first report must be published by 5 July 2012.

4.    Both the group and the Government will engage with key NHS professionals and patient organisations in considering the potential for changes, before a full public consultation in autumn 2012. Any amendments to the NHS Constitution would then come into effect by April 2013.

5.    The Health Act 2009 places a duty on various NHS bodies to have regard to the NHS Constitution. The Health and Social Care Bill applies this duty to the new bodies set up by the Bill as well as local authorities’ public health functions. The Bill also introduces new duties on the NHS Commissioning Board and Clinical Commissioning Groups to promote the Constitution and on the Secretary of State to have regard to it.

6.    The new whistleblowing helpline number is 08000 724 725. Provided by the Royal Mencap Society, the service operates weekdays between 08.00-18.00, and an out of hours answering service is available weekends and public holidays.

7.    A similar web-based whistleblowing service is also being developed, with further details to be announced in due course.

8.    The Department of Health ran a full public consultation on a set of proposals for changes to the NHS Constitution in respect of whistleblowing and published the Government’s response to that consultation, on 18 October 2011, setting out a commitment to making the changes in early 2012.

9.    Changes to the NHS Constitution on whistleblowing:

  • an** expectation** that staff should raise concerns at the earliest opportunity;
  • a pledge that NHS organisations should support staff when raising concerns by ensuring their concerns are fully investigated and that there is someone independent, outside of their team, to speak to; and
  • clarity around the existing legal right for staff to raise concerns about safety, malpractice or other wrong doing without suffering any detriment.

10.    To see the most up to date version of the Constitution visit the DH website.

11.    For further information, contact the Department of Health Press Office on 020 7210 5221.

12.    The members of the independent group are:

Professor Steve Field - Chair, NHS Future Forum

Dr Charles Alessi - Senior GP Partner of The Churchill Practice; Chair of the National Association of Primary Care

Vicky Bailey - CEO Principia CCG

Sally Brearley -  Patient Representative  and lay member, National Quality Board

Howard Catton - Head of Policy and International, Royal College of Nursing

Professor Mike Cooke CBE - Chief Executive, Nottinghamshire Health Care NHS Trust

Jocelyn Cornwell - Director, Point of Care Programme, Kings Fund

Jane Cummings - Director of Nursing, NHS North of England SHA Cluster

Ciaran Devane - CEO Macmillan Cancer Support

Vin Diwaker - Medical Director of Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Dr Jennifer Harries - Joint Director of Public Health,
NHS Norfolk & Waveney Cluster and Norfolk County Council

Peter Hay - President, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)

Jo Lenaghan - Director of Policy, National Quality Team

Christina McAnea - Co-chair of Social Partnership Forum; National Secretary for Health, Unison

Vivienne McVey - Commercial Director, Virgin Care

Dr Jennifer Harries -  Joint Director of Public Health, NHS Norfolk & Waveney Cluster and Norfolk County Council

Peter Hay - President, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)

Jo Lenaghan -  Director of Policy, National Quality Team

Christina McAnea - Co-chair of Social Partnership Forum; National Secretary for Health, Unison

Vivienne McVey - Commercial Director, Virgin Care

Dr Hamish Meldrum - Chairman, British Medical Association

Sir Keith Pearson - Chair of NHS Confederation

Ash Soni - Community pharmacist, and Clinical Network Lead, NHS Lambeth

Jason Stamp - Strategic patient and public involvement and current Chair of Hull LINk

Jeremy Taylor - Chief Executive, National Voices

Stephen Thornton - Chief Executive, The Health Foundation

Paula Vasco-Knight - Chief Executive, South Devon Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust; Member of Equality and Diversity Councils

Published 8 March 2012