hero image

NHS Constitution

NHS Constitution

The NHS Constitution was first published in January 2009. It was one of a number of recommendations in Lord Darzi’s report ‘High Quality Care for All’ which was published on the 60th anniversary of the NHS and set out a ten-year plan to provide the highest quality of care and service for patients in England.

The NHS Constitution brings together in one place for the first time in the history of the NHS, what staff, patients and public can expect from the NHS.

No Government will be able to 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.

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.

Your rights

  • If your GP refers you for treatment, you have the right for any non-emergency treatment that you need to start within a maximum of 18 weeks or for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of alternatives if this is not possible. You also have the right to be seen by a specialist within a maximum of two weeks from GP referral for urgent referrals where cancer is suspected.
  • 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.
  • You can view your personal
    health records. You don’t have to give a reason to see them, just ask at your GP surgery and make an appointment to go in.
  • You should always be treated with dignity and respect, in accordance with your human rights. This means, for example, that your right to privacy should be respected. You should not have to share sleeping or bathroom facilities with members of the opposite sex, except on the rare occasions where you need very specialised or urgent care.
  • You have the right to have any complaint you make about the NHS dealt with efficiently and have it investigated properly.

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.

To find out more about the NHS Constitution and what it means for you, visit

This page was created with thanks to NHS Choices