Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
Text size: Click to set the font size to normal

The NHS Constitution

The NHS Constitution: your right to access services

NHS Constitution logoUnder the NHS Constituion, all patients have a right to start consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks of the date of their referral. Those referred urgently with suspected cancer or breast symptoms must be offered an appointment within two weeks. If we do not meet these obligations you have the right to ask us to resolve the situation. At the Royal Free we are working with our neighbouring hospitals, the Whittington and UCLH to ensure you have your surgical treatment within 18 weeks. This means you could ask to have your operation at one of our neighbouring hospitals with an alternative clinician. If you are concerned that you are waiting too long for treatment please contact our patient advice and liaison service (PALS). A member of the PALS team will work with you to try to resolve the problem and advise you of your rights under the NHS Constitution. PALS may be contacted on 020 7472 6447.

New rights for patients

This and other rights are now embodied in the NHS Constitution It sets out what you as a patient can expect and demand from the NHS, and what we can all do to help it to work more effectively. It explains the principles and values that guide how the NHS should act and make decisions. It explains the rights and responsibilities of staff, patients and the public, and the NHS's pledges to them.

The patients' rights it explains include how you access health services; the quality of care you will receive; the treatments and programmes available to you; confidentiality regarding your care; and your right to complain if things go wrong.

It gives you the legal right to access NHS services; drugs and treatments approved by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); choice about where you receive your care; and to be treated with dignity and respect.

It also promises to ensure that you are seen as soon as possible, that any complaint you make about the NHS is investigated properly and that you receive care in a clean and safe environment.

The constitution explains the rights and responsibilities of not only patients but also staff and the public, and the NHS's pledges to them. Among other things, it also aims to ensure that the health service provides a high-quality working environment for its staff.

What the NHS needs from you in return

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

The constitution will be renewed every 10 years, with the involvement of the public, patients and staff.

Find out more about the NHS Constitution and your rights as a patient here:

page last reviewed: 07 July 2010