Handbook to the NHS Constitution for England

Information about the rights and pledges in the NHS Constitution and what these mean for NHS patients and staff.

Applies to England



As a result of the EU Exit transition period ending on 31 December 2020, the rules changed regarding UK residents’ access to healthcare in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

From autumn 2021 new agreements have come into force and so the NHS Constitution for England will be updated.

This handbook is designed to give the public, patients, carers, families and NHS staff all the information they need about the NHS Constitution for England.

The handbook covers:

  • NHS values and the principles that guide the NHS
  • explanations of the rights and pledges in the NHS Constitution
  • legal sources of patient and staff rights
  • the roles we all play in protecting and developing the NHS
Published 27 July 2015
Last updated 27 January 2022 + show all updates
  1. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has a statutory duty to review the Handbook to the NHS Constitution every 3 years. The handbook has been updated throughout following the 2022 review, and is published in conjunction with an updated version of the NHS Constitution.

  2. Edited ‘Feedback on the handbook’ section to remove a call centre that has closed. Also updated ‘Accessing reciprocal planned treatment’ section to reflect new agreements after Brexit.

  3. Changed 'EU GDPR' to 'UK GDPR' throughout.

  4. Changes to 'Rights and pledges covering access to health services'. Changes to rules on organ donation. Contact details updated for 'Feedback on the handbook'

  5. Published HTML document to replace pdf.

  6. Updated with 2019 edition of the handbook to the NHS Constitution. Removed the document 'Addendum to the NHS Constitution: September 2017' as this information has been incorporated into the new edition of the handbook.

  7. Added an addendum to the NHS Constitution handbook.

  8. First published.