Press release

New rights for NHS patients

Norman Lamb announces stronger rights for NHS patients.

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


Proposed changes to the NHS Constitution will give patients stronger rights Health Minister Norman Lamb announced today.

Single sex accommodation will be included in the constitution for the first time, along with stronger rights for patients to be told about mistakes and a right to have complaints acknowledged within three working days.

The change is part of a wider consultation, launching today, asking the public and the NHS how they think NHS Constitution can be strengthened. The proposed changes to the NHS Constitution would be the first major set of changes since it was introduced three years ago, including:

  • Openness: a new right for patients to receive acknowledgement, an explanation and apology where mistakes have been made
  • End of life care: a new right that patients, their families and carers should be involved in all discussions and decisions
  • Complaints: a new right for complaints to be acknowledged within three days, as well as stronger rights on how complaints are then handled
  • Single sex accommodation: a new pledge making it explicit that this is what patients can expect
  • A pledge on abusive and violent patients, making it clear that they could be denied access to NHS services, if it is safe to do so

The rights set out in the Constitution are all based on existing law. The Government wants patients to be aware of their rights so they can get what they are entitled to first time, every time. But where they don’t, patients will be able to challenge, which may include taking legal action. The type of legal action will depend on circumstances. In some cases patients will have rights against NHS bodies which could mean suing for damages, in others it could mean a judicial review to challenge a decision.

Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

We are clear that the founding principles of the NHS - free at the point of delivery to all, regardless of their ability to pay - will not only be supported, but reinforced.

The NHS is one of this country’s greatest achievements. The government will always make sure it is free to all, no matter your age or the size of your bank balance. That’s why at the same time as we are protecting its budget, we are strengthening this constitution, which enshrines the right of everyone to have first class care, now and in the future.

We said we would protect and improve the NHS, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Notes to Editors

  • For more information contact the Department of Health Press Office on 0207 210 5947.

  • The consultation will last for 12 weeks and anyone who would like to have their say on the new changes to the constitution can do so by visiting the DH website. 

  • The updated pledge on respect states: You should treat NHS staff and other patients with respect and recognise that violence, causing a nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises could result in prosecution and that abusive or violent behaviour could result in you being refused access to the NHS.

  • The new contractual duty of candour pledges: to ensure that if you are harmed while receiving healthcare you receive an appropriate explanation and apology, delivered with sensitivity and recognition of the trauma you have experienced, and know that where mistakes have been made, lessons will be learned to help avoid a similar incident occurring again, and to ensure that the organisation learns lessons from complaints and uses these to improve NHS services.

  • The pledge on discussing treatment now includes end of life care: You have the right, to be involved fully in all discussions and decisions about your healthcare, including in your end of life care, and to be given information to enable you to do this. Where appropriate this right includes your family and carers.

  • The new pledge on single sex accommodation states: that if you are admitted to hospital, you will not have to share sleeping accommodation with patients of the opposite sex, in line with details set out in the Handbook to the NHS Constitution.

Published 5 November 2012