NHS Constitution for England

The principles and values of the NHS in England, and information on how to make a complaint about NHS services.

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.

The constitution sets out rights for patients, public and staff. It outlines NHS commitments to patients and staff, and the responsibilities that the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. All NHS bodies and private and third sector providers supplying NHS services are required by law to take account of the constitution in their decisions and actions.

The constitution sets out a commitment for government to produce an up-to-date statement of NHS accountability to explain how decision-making works in the NHS. This is included in the Guide to the healthcare system in England.

The Department of Health and Social Care has also produced supplements, including the NHS Constitution handbook, that explains in greater detail the rights and pledges contained in the constitution.

How to complain

For information on how patients can give feedback or make a complaint about NHS care or treatment, see the NHS website for guidance on How to complain to the NHS. It includes information on the complaints arrangements, and what patients can expect when they make a complaint. The complaints guidance should be read alongside the NHS Constitution.

Updates to this page

Published 8 March 2012
Last updated 17 August 2023 + show all updates
  1. Deleted the 'NHS complaints guidance' document and added a link to current guidance on the NHS website.

  2. Update to 'Access to health services' following EU Exit.

  3. Updated to include versions of the NHS constitution in easy read, large font and audio.

  4. Added updated NHS Constitution and updated Handbook to the NHS Constitution.

  5. NHS complaints guidance for patients added.

  6. Published an easy read version of the NHS constitution in England.

  7. Added updated NHS Constitution and updated Handbook to the NHS Constitution.

  8. First published.

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