The NHS Constitution has been created to protect the NHS and make sure it will always do the things it was set up to do in 1948.

About your rights as an NHS patient

The NHS is there for us from the moment we are born. It takes care of us and our family members when we need it most. It has been created to protect the NHS and make sure it will always do the things it was set up to do in 1948 – to provide high-quality healthcare that’s free and for everyone.

No government can change the Constitution without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public. The Constitution is a promise that the NHS will always be there for you.

What is the NHS Constitution?

For the first time in the history of the NHS, the constitution brings together in one place details of what staff, patients and the public can expect from the National Health Service. It also explains what you can do to help support the NHS, help it work effectively, and help ensure that its resources are used responsibly.

The Constitution sets out your rights as an NHS patient. These rights cover how patients access health services, the quality of care you’ll receive, the treatments and programmes available to you, confidentiality, information and your right to complain if things go wrong.

Rights and pledges

One of the primary aims of the Constitution is to set out clearly what patients, the public and staff can expect from the NHS and what the NHS expects from them in return.

What you can expect from the NHS

If your GP refers you for treatment, start your consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral for non-urgent conditions and to be seen by a cancer specialist within a maximum of two weeks from GP referral for urgent referrals where cancer is suspected. If this is not possible, the NHS has to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of alternatives. For more information see the guide to waiting times.

If your GP refers you to see a consultant you may have a choice of a number of hospitals. You might want to choose a hospital that has better results for your treatment than others, or one near your place of work. Ask your GP for more information.

You can find and compare hospitals on this website using the services near you search box.

You can view your personal health records and to have any factual inaccuracies corrected. You don’t have to give a reason to see them, just ask at your GP surgery and make an appointment to come in.

If you are unhappy with an NHS service and decide to make a complaint, you have the right to have that complaint acknowledged by the organisation receiving the complaint within three working days (this does not include weekends and bank holidays). You also have the right for that complaint to be investigated properly.

The promises the NHS makes to you

The NHS commits to inform you about the healthcare services available to you, locally and nationally., for example, is a service intended to help you make choices about your health, from lifestyle decisions about things like smokingdrinking and exercise, to the practical aspects of finding and using NHS services in England.

The NHS commits to ensuring that services are provided in a clean and safe environment that is fit for purpose, based on national best practice. Tell the provider of your care of any concerns about your healthcare facilities and participate in the regular surveys of patient experience that the NHS uses to improve its care.

The NHS commits that if you are admitted to hospital, you will not have to share sleeping accommodation with patients of the opposite sex, except where appropriate. For more information see the information about same-sex hospital accommodation.

What the NHS needs in return from you

The NHS is a vital resource and we can all help it work effectively, and ensure resources are used responsibly. The NHS Constitution explains the ways in which you can do this, including:

  • recognising that you can make a significant contribution to your own, and your family’s good health and wellbeing, and taking some personal responsibility for it
  • registering with a GP practice
  • following courses of treatment you’ve agreed to
  • always treating NHS staff and other patients with respect
  • keeping GP and hospital appointments – or if you have to cancel, doing so in good time
  • giving feedback – both positive and negative – about treatment you’ve received.

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