The NHS Constitution describes the values and principles of the NHS.
The NHS belongs to us all, taking care of us and our family members when we need it the most. The NHS Constitution protects the principles of the NHS and sets out the legal rights and pledges of the NHS to patients, the public and staff.
All hospitals and healthcare organisations that provide NHS services in England are required by law to take account of the Constitution.
The NHS Somerset champions are:
Andrew Govier, Non Executive Director, 01935 385009
Mal Lee, Executive Programme Lead to the Chief Executive, 01935 384034
What does it mean for me?
The NHS Constitution sets out your rights as an NHS patient. These rights include how you access health services, the quality of care you receive, the treatment available to you, confidentiality and your right to complain if things go wrong.
Choice of hospital
If your GP refers you to see a hospital doctor, you can usually choose the hospital you go to. You may want to pick one with better results for your treatment or one near family. Read our Choose and Book page for more details.
Legal right to maximum waiting times
Since 1 April 2010, patients have had the legal right to maximum waiting times of 18 weeks from a GP referral to the start of their treatment by a consultant and to be seen by a cancer specialist within 2 weeks of GP referral.
If a GP, dentist, optician or other clinician refers you for hospital treatment, the clock starts when you book your first appointment, or when your referral letter is received by the hospital. In other words, measurement of the time you wait starts from this point.
If you have concerns that your waiting time is longer than 18 weeks or if you are dissatisfied with how your referral request has been handled please contact NHS Somerset PALS service.
You have the right to be involved in decisions when the NHS is planning new services or making changes to existing services. Visit our Contact Us section to get involved, or visit our Get Involved page to find out more.
Your health records
You can view your own health records and don't have to give a reason to see them. Talk to your GP or contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). You can find out more about how your health records are managed on our NHS Summary Care Record page and the Department of Health Guidance.
Privacy and dignity
You should always be treated with dignity and respect. This means, for example, that your right to privacy should be respected. If you stay in hospital, you should not have to share your bathroom or sleeping facilities with people of the opposite sex, except when you need urgent or specialised care.
You have the right to have any complaint you make about the NHS dealt with properly. If you are not sure where to start, the PALS service can help.
The NHS's promise to you
The NHS Constitution makes certain pledges which are a commitment to provide high-quality health services. For example:
- the NHS commits to provide convenient, easy-to-access services
- the NHS commits to inform you about local and national healthcare services. Visit the Services section of this website to find out what services are available and where
- the NHS commits to ensure its services are delivered in a clean and safe environment
You can see all the pledges the NHS makes to patients by downloading the NHS Constitution.
What the NHS needs from you
The NHS is a valuable 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:
1. Recognising that you can make a significant contribution to you and your family's health and wellbeing, and taking personal responsibility for your health where you can.
2. Registering with a GP practice. You can search for GP practices and other NHS services on this website.
3. Following courses of treatment you have agreed to.
4. Always treating NHS staff and other patients with respect.
5. Keeping GP and hospital appointments - or if you have to cancel, doing so in good time.
6. Giving feedback - both positive and negative - about treatment you have received. In Somerset you can do this by contacting our PALS service.
Click on the link below to start the E learning module on the NHS Constitution. It is an interactive programme that enables you, a patient or member of staff, to understand more about the NHS Constitution.