NHS Constitution: Fact or Fiction?

Published on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 11:19
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

The Patients Association is  today publishing new evidence which suggests the public, patients, carers and doctors have very limited knowledge of NHS patients' rights.

The survey found that the three most important priorities for patients and the public when receiving NHS services are: the right to be involved in decisions about their care, rights to information about treatment and rights to be treated with dignity and respect.

Whilst the patients' rights charter, the NHS Constitution, was launched three years ago the vast majority of respondents to the survey had never heard of it. However many felt that the NHS Constitution should emphasise key rights such as being an equal partner in decision making about their care and treatment.

The survey conducted by The Patients Association included 1336 respondents and formed the basis of a research piece entitled The NHS Constitution: Fact or Fiction which found:

  • The majority of patients (76%) had not heard of the NHS Constitution before they received treatment in the last two years and 61% of patients had not heard of the NHS Constitution before participating in this survey.
  • Patients and the public have active interest in the NHS Constitution and would like to know more about it. 56% of people not waiting for or expecting treatment said they would be likely to read the NHS Constitution if they had known about it, along with 70% of those waiting for or expecting treatment.
  • The areas which patients felt that it was most important for the NHS Constitution to emphasise were: the right to be involved in decisions about their care (66%), rights to information about treatment (61%) and rights to be treated with dignity and respect (57%).

Following the survey, which also showed awareness amongst GPs of the NHS Constitution to be generally low with 52% saying that they did not understand the NHS Constitution well or at all, The Patients Association has developed a new tool called the GP Checklist.

The GP Checklist Report, also being published for the first time today, is designed to help raise awareness of the rights patients have with regard to GPs and to act as a tool to help give patients the confidence to talk to their GP as an equal partner in decision making.

In the autumn the All Party Parliamentary Group for Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care will be undertaking its own review of the NHS Constitution.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said,

"The Patients Association has been listening to patients who are telling us directly what they want for the future of our NHS: more shared decision making about their care, stronger rights to ensure they have good information about their treatment and also respect when accessing local services. The NHS Constitution is one way of safeguarding these rights and making clear that patient care is at the heart of the health service.

At a time when the NHS is experiencing huge upheaval, a £20 billion efficiency drive and increasing waiting times it seems that patient care is all too often being compromised and poor performance unchallenged.

If the NHS Constitution is to become a reality, rather than simply rhetoric, there must be a genuine and meaningful awareness campaign. This survey is a rallying call to action for everybody involved in the health service including: The Government, Trusts, Clinical Comissioning Groups, GP's and other professionals, and of course patients and the public. The NHS Constitution must become the bible for patients' rights and truly hold Trusts and professionals to account for delivering the highest quality of care."

Source: ©The Patients Association

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