NHS Constitution

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The NHS Constitution LogoLooking after yourself and your NHS – the NHS Constitution  

The NHS Constitution brings together in one place what staff, patients and public can expect from the NHS. It sets out the purpose, principles and values of the NHS and explains a number of rights, pledges and responsibilities for staff and patients alike. 

Did you know…?  

  • If your GP refers you for treatment, you have the right for any non-emergency treatment to start within a maximum of 18 weeks, or for the NHS to take 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 and your GP thinks it’s necessary.   
  • If your GP refers you to see a consultant, you generally 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 family that live in another part of the country, or one that has shorter waiting times.  
  • 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. If you’re not sure where to start or how to get in touch with an NHS organisation, our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) can help.  

North East Essex (Colchester, Tendring and Harwich): Freephone 0800 328 5620 (office hours 9:00am-5:00pm, confidential voicemail available out of hours) or email: complaints@northeastessex.nhs.uk  

Mid Essex (Braintree, Maldon and Chelmsford): 01245 459459 or 01245 398717 or email: me-pct.patientexperience@nhs.net 

West Essex (Epping, Harlow and Uttlesford): : 01992 566122 or 01992 566123 or email: we-pct.comments@nhs.net 

 *If you are unsure of which area you fall into please refer to our area map on the home page.  

You can exercise your right to choice through the Choose and Book service. The Choose and Book service revolutionises the old booking system by allowing you to choose your initial hospital or clinic appointment offering you a choice of location, date and time.  Appointments can be booked on the spot in the surgery or later on the phone or via the internet. The choice available to you has recently been extended to more Trusts and includes GP’s with special interests as well as some community based clinics. 

 The benefits to you: 

 You can choose any hospital in England funded by the NHS (this includes NHS hospitals and some independent hospitals). 

You can also choose your preferred date and time from the available appointments offered by the hospital provider. 

You can experience greater convenience and certainty.  With Choose and Book, the choice is yours.

 You can check the status of your referral and change or cancel appoints easily over the phone or on the internet.

 There is less chance that information will get lost in the post because more correspondence takes place through computers.  

To find out more visit:  http://www.chooseandbook.nhs.uk/patients  

The promises the NHS makes to you

 The NHS also makes certain pledges to you, which it is committed to achieving. These go above and beyond your legal rights and are a commitment to provide high-quality services.  

 Did you know...? 


  • The NHS is working hard to make sure that you are seen as soon as possible, at a time that is convenient to you. While the NHS is making it easier for you to get a hospital appointment more quickly, it's also giving you more opportunity to see a GP at a time that suits you. Nearly two-thirds of GP surgeries now offer extended opening hours so you can book appointments before or after work. Each area is also establishing new GP-led health centres offering walk-in and bookable GP appointments from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. You'll be able to use the service regardless of which local GP surgery you're registered with.  
  • The NHS commits to inform you about the healthcare services available to you, locally and nationally. NHS Choices, for example, is a service intended to help you make choices about your health, from lifestyle decisions about things like smoking, drinking and exercise, through to the practical aspects of finding and using NHS services in England.  
  • The NHS commits to ensure that services are provided in a clean and safe environment that is fit for purpose, based on national best practice. Tell the provider of your care of any concerns about your healthcare facilities and participate in the regular surveys of patient experience that the NHS uses to improve its care. 

 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  

Did you know…?  

  • An article from the BBC said “Studies have shown that patients who fail to attend appointments cost the NHS approximately £700m a year, with up to six million appointment slots wasted annually.” March, 2012.
  • Approximately £5 million is wasted on unused medicines every year – Only order what you need for a month
  • Only order what you are going to take
  • Take your medicines in accordance with the prescriber's directions
  • Unused medicines can be dangerous
  • Money wasted on unused medicines could be better used within the NHS 
  • Many deaths and illnesses could be avoided by adopting healthier lifestyles. For example, it is estimated  that a substantial proportion of cancers, around 30% of circulatory diseases and a large proportion vascular dementia could be avoided through a combination of reducing smoking rates, improving diet and increasing physical activity.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best. The two keys to a healthy diet are eating the right number of calories for how active you are, so that you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use and eating a wide range of foods to ensure that you’re getting a balanced diet and that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.
  • Increasing the amount of physical activity you take can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Examples of moderate-intensity activities that will improve your health include walking fast, water aerobics, cycling, playing tennis or pushing a lawn mower.  

For more tips on how to stay healthy visit: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/Pages/Livewellhub.aspx 

For more information on the NHS Constitution, visit: