Your rights and responsibilties

The NHS constitution sets out what NHS staff, patients and the public can expect from the National Health Service. It also explains what patients and the public can do to help support the NHS and help it work effectively. The Constitution sets out NHS patients’ rights. These rights cover how patients can access health services, the quality of care they’ll receive, details of available treatments and programmes, confidentiality, information and your right to complain if things go wrong.

What are my rights?

Access to Health Services

  • You have the right to receive NHS services free of charge, apart from certain limited exceptions sanctioned by Parliament.
  • You have the right to access NHS services. You will not be refused access on unreasonable grounds.
  • You have the right to receive care and treatment that is appropriate to you, meets your needs and reflects your preferences.
  • You have the right to expect your NHS to assess the health requirements of your community and to commission and put in place the services to meet those needs as considered necessary, and in the case of public health services commissioned by local authorities, to take steps to improve the health of the local community.
  • You have the right, in certain circumstances, to go to other European Economic Area countries or Switzerland for treatment which would be available to you through your NHS commissioner.
  • You have the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against in the provision of NHS services including on grounds of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or marital or civil partnership status.
  • You have the right to access certain services commissioned by NHS bodies within maximum waiting times, or for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of suitable alternative providers if this is not possible. The waiting times are described in the Handbook to the NHS Constitution

Quality of Care and Environment

  • You have the right to be treated with a professional standard of care, by appropriately qualified and experienced staff, in a properly approved or registered organisation that meets required levels of safety and quality.
  • You have the right to be cared for in a clean, safe, secure and suitable environment.
  • You have the right to receive suitable and nutritious food and hydration to sustain good health and wellbeing.
  • You have the right to expect NHS bodies to monitor, and make efforts to improve continuously, the quality of healthcare they commission or provide. This includes improvements to the safety, effectiveness and experience of services.

Nationally approved Treatments, Drugs and Programmes

  • You have the right to drugs and treatments that have been recommended by NICE for use in the NHS, if your doctor says they are clinically appropriate for you.
  • You have the right to expect local decisions on funding of other drugs and treatments to be made rationally following a proper consideration of the evidence. If the local NHS decides not to fund a drug or treatment you and your doctor feel would be right for you, they will explain that decision to you.
  • You have the right to receive the vaccinations that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends that you should receive under an NHS-provided national immunisation programme.

Respect, Consent and Confidentiality

  • You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, in accordance with your human rights.
  • You have the right to be protected from abuse and neglect, and care and treatment that is degrading.
  • You have the right to accept or refuse treatment that is offered to you, and not to be given any physical examination or treatment unless you have given valid consent. If you do not have the capacity to do so, consent must be obtained from a person legally able to act on your behalf, or the treatment must be in your best interests.
  • You have the right to be given information about the test and treatment options available to you, what they involve and their risks and benefits.
  • You have the right of access to your own health records and to have any factual inaccuracies corrected.
  • You have the right to privacy and confidentiality and to expect the NHS to keep your confidential information safe and secure.
  • You have the right to be informed about how your information is used.
  • You have the right to request that your confidential information is not used beyond your own care and treatment and to have your objections considered, and where your wishes cannot be followed, to be told the reasons including the legal basis.

Informed Choice

  • You have the right to choose your GP practice, and to be accepted by that practice unless there are reasonable grounds to refuse, in which case you will be informed of those reasons.
  • You have the right to express a preference for using a particular doctor within your GP practice, and for the practice to try to comply.
  • You have the right to transparent, accessible and comparable data on the quality of local healthcare providers, and on outcomes, as compared to others nationally.
  • You have the right to make choices about the services commissioned by NHS bodies and to information to support these choices. The options available to you will develop over time and depend on your individual needs. Details are set out in the Handbook to the NHS Constitution.

Involvement in your healthcare and the NHS

  • You have the right to be involved in planning and making decisions about your health and care with your care provider or providers, including your end of life care, and to be given information and support to enable you to do this. Where appropriate, this right includes your family and carers. This includes being given the chance to manage your own care and treatment, if appropriate.
  • You have the right to an open and transparent relationship with the organisation providing your care. You must be told about any safety incident relating to your care which, in the opinion of a healthcare professional, has caused, or could still cause, significant harm or death. You must be given the facts, an apology, and any reasonable support you need.
  • You have the right to be involved, directly or through representatives, in the planning of healthcare services commissioned by NHS bodies, the development and consideration of proposals for changes in the way those services are provided, and in decisions to be made affecting the operation of those services.

Complaints and Redress

  • You have the right to have any complaint you make about NHS services acknowledged within three working days and to have it properly investigated.
  • You have the right to discuss the manner in which the complaint is to be handled, and to know the period within which the investigation is likely to be completed and the response sent.
  • You have the right to be kept informed of progress and to know the outcome of any investigation into your complaint, including an explanation of the conclusions and confirmation that any action needed in consequence of the complaint has been taken or is proposed to be taken.
  • You have the right to take your complaint to the independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman or Local Government Ombudsman, if you are not satisfied with the way your complaint has been dealt with by the NHS.
  • You have the right to make a claim for judicial review if you think you have been directly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an NHS body or local authority.
  • You have the right to compensation where you have been harmed by negligent treatment.

What are my responsibilities?

  • Please recognise that you can make a significant contribution to your own, and your family’s, good health and wellbeing, and take personal responsibility for it.
  • Please register with a GP practice – the main point of access to NHS care as commissioned by NHS bodies.
  • Please treat NHS staff and other patients with respect and recognise that violence, or the causing of nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises, could result in prosecution. You should recognise that abusive and violent behaviour could result in you being refused access to NHS services.
  • Please provide accurate information about your health, condition and status.
  • Please keep appointments, or cancel within a reasonable time. Receiving treatment within the maximum waiting times may be compromised unless you do.
  • Please follow the course of treatment which you have agreed, and talk to your clinician if you find this difficult.
  • Please participate in important public health programmes such as vaccination.
  • Please ensure that those closest to you are aware of your wishes about organ donation.
  • Please give feedback – both positive and negative – about your experiences and the treatment and care you have received, including any adverse reactions you may have had. You can often provide feedback anonymously and giving feedback will not affect adversely your care or how you are treated. If a family member or someone you are a carer for is a patient and unable to provide feedback, you are encouraged to give feedback about their experiences on their behalf. Feedback will help to improve NHS services for all.

To read more about the NHS Constitution and to download a copy visit gov.uk website.