The NHS Constitution and Handbook to the NHS Constitution have been updated to reflect current policy and legislation and to make the Constitution a more practical document.
In his inquiry into the failings at Mid-Staffordshire, Sir Robert Francis QC recommended amendments to the NHS Constitution based on:
- prioritising patients
- protecting patients from avoidable harm
- providing assistance that patients need
- staff compliance with guidance
Each of these recommendations has been fully accepted and implemented within the new NHS Constitution.
Standards of care
The NHS Constitution now reflects a series of fundamental standards, below which standards of care must never fall. In April 2015, the way hospitals are inspected was changed with the Care Quality Commission becoming regulators of fundamental standards. Failure to meet these standards, and an inability to meet the high standards patients expect and deserve, will result in decisive action to protect patients.
Physical and mental health
To close the gap between physical and mental health, the NHS Constitution makes it clear each are equally important. This is an important part of the NHS Principles that guide the NHS in all that it does.
The role of the armed forces is recognised by enshrining the Armed Forces Covenant in the Constitution to ensure equal access to services.
Duty of candour
The Department of Health has also introduced a new duty of candour into the NHS Constitution, to promote a culture of openness within the NHS. The inclusion of a patient right to candour helps to achieve this.
Sir Robert Francis said:
The Constitution is an immensely useful tool not only for patients but for NHS staff at all levels. So I look forward to it being fully integrated into everything the NHS does. It is important not only that everyone is familiar with the rights and responsibilities in the Constitution, but that they are a reality for everyone who offers or receives healthcare.
The Handbook to the NHS Constitution provides further information on the Constitution, including detail on important policies, such as whistleblowing. The Handbook is of particular use to organisations that support and advise patients, their carers and families, and staff.