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It is there to improve our health and wellbeing, supporting us to keep mentally and physically well, to get better when we are ill and, when we cannot fully recover, to stay as well as we can to the end of our lives. It works at the limits of science – bringing the highest levels of human knowledge and skill to save lives and improve health. It touches our lives at times of basic human need, when care and compassion are what matter most.
The NHS is founded on a common set of principles and values that bind together the communities and people it serves – patients and public – and the staff who work for it.
This Constitution establishes the principles and values of the NHS in England. It sets out rights to which patients, public and staff are entitled, and pledges which the NHS is committed to achieve, together with responsibilities, which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. The Secretary of State for Health, all NHS bodies, private and voluntary sector providers supplying NHS services, and local authorities in the exercise of their public health functions are required by law to take account of this Constitution in their decisions and actions. References in the NHS Constitution to the NHS and NHS services include local authority public health services, but references to NHS bodies do not include local authorities. Where there are differences of detail these are explained in the Handbook to the Constitution.
The Constitution will be renewed every 10 years, with the involvement of the public, patients and staff. It is accompanied by the Handbook to the NHS Constitution, to be renewed at least every 3 years, setting out current guidance on the rights, pledges, duties and responsibilities established by the Constitution. These requirements for renewal are legally binding. They guarantee that the principles and values which underpin the NHS are subject to regular review and re-commitment; and that any government which seeks to alter the principles or values of the NHS, or the rights, pledges, duties and responsibilities set out in this Constitution, will have to engage in a full and transparent debate with the public, patients and staff.
For more information please access the Department of Health website.