Know your NHS rights and responsibilities

The NHS Constitution is a useful document to know – setting out what patients, the public and the staff working for it can expect from the NHS.
graphic illustrating NHS Constitution

The Covid-19 pandemic has put huge pressure on all health and social care services. Routine health appointments and planned procedures are now being restarted but there are longer than normal waits for many procedures. More health and support appointments are being carried out by telephone or video call where this is an option. Get in touch with our Information team if you have questions about how this may affect you or the person you care for.

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The NHS Constitution was first published in 2009 and is reviewed and renewed at least once every 10 years.  

The document and its explanatory handbook spell out:

  • The underlying principles and values of the NHS in England
  • Legal rights for patients, the public and staff
  • Pledges that the NHS is committed to achieving – including maximum waiting times for starting treatment
  • Responsibilities of the public, patients and staff to help make sure the NHS runs fairly and effectively.

As a user of the NHS, your responsibilities include:

  • helping to looking after your own health
  • treating staff and other patients with respect
  • keeping appointments
  • providing accurate information

Waiting Times

Under the NHS Constitution, patients have a right to start treatment within maximum waiting times.

As long as you choose it and it is appropriate for you, you have the right to start non-emergency treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from when you are referred by your GP.

Making a complaint

The Constitution guides patients on how to get redress or make a complaint and get it properly investigated.

This includes the right to:

  • Have any complaint you make about NHS services acknowledged within three working days and to have it properly investigated.
  • Be kept informed of progress and to know the outcome of any investigation into your complaint
  • Take higher action to an Ombudsman if you are not happy with the NHS response.

Find out more

Learn more about what you can expect from the NHS and its commitments to patients and the public.

Read the NHS Constitution

Page checked 10 December 2021

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