All Party Parliamentary Group on Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care and the Patients Association has published its NHS Constitution Inquiry.
Over the last twelve months, the Patients Association, as part of its role as the Secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care, conducted an Inquiry into the evolution and current utilisation of the NHS constitution throughout the NHS.This Inquiry consisted of four oral sessions conducted in the Houses of Parliament and various written evidence submitted.
Since the introduction of the NHS Constitution by the then Labour Government in January 2010, we have seen precious little improvement in terms of how patients are being treated by the NHS. Instead, we have seen waiting times for elective procedures increase, rising numbers of patients being denied access to NICE approved treatments and continue to hear harrowing stories of neglectful and undignified treatment.
This is contrary to the legal rights patients have, as described by the NHS constitution. But how useful are these rights if people are unaware of them? The strength of the NHS Constitution is that it brings together all the rights patients have to one place, yet our survey shows that knowledge and understanding amongst patients and the public is very low. Furthermore, those who are aware of the NHS constitution do not know how to enforce these rights.
Therefore, raising awareness of the NHS constitution and how it can be used to empower patients is vital. Otherwise it is just a pointless document gathering dust in the Department of Health. The aim of this inquiry was to understand the barriers to achieving greater awareness of the NHS constitution and understand how we can address them in the interests of patients.
Based on the evidence we received, we came up with a five step programme to improve how the NHS constitution is understood and implemented across the UK. The five steps we propose are:
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