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Reviewing and Strengthening the NHS Constitution

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 8 March 2012

As Secretary of State for Health, I have a duty, under the Health Act 2009, to publish a report on how the NHS constitution has affected patients, staff, carers and the public by 5 July 2012.

The Government are committed to the common set of principles and values established by the NHS constitution, and have made a number of amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to strengthen its influence on the NHS.

The statutory requirement for a report on the impact of the NHS constitution provides an excellent opportunity to assess the contribution it has made to reinforcing the principles and values of the NHS, supporting high quality patient care and ensuring that patients, the public and staff are aware of their rights, as well as what they can contribute. The report will help to inform efforts to fully embed the constitution in the everyday work of the NHS, including the plans of the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to fulfil their duties to promote the NHS constitution.

In order to make the most of this opportunity, I am keen to have a wide range of advice and I have therefore asked Professor Steve Field to chair an independent Future Forum working group to advise me on the NHS constitution. The Future Forum group will use a wide variety of information, including surveys, workshops, performance data, and patient experience reports to examine what effect the constitution has had on the NHS and will then advise me on how best to reflect this in my report.

Following the report, I have also asked the new Future Forum group to advise me whether there is any scope for strengthening the NHS constitution to support the fair and effective operation of the NHS. Both the group and the Government will engage with key NHS, professional and patient organisations in considering the potential for changes, before a full public consultation in autumn 2012. Any amendments to the NHS constitution would then come into effect by April 2013.

Between them, this work and the new duties on the NHS constitution contained in the Health and Social Care Bill, which will require NHS bodies to have regard to the constitution and for the NHSCB and CCGs to promote the constitution, will strengthen both the contents of the NHS constitution and the role it plays in the NHS.