Recommendations for strengthening the NHS Constitution have been outlined by the NHS Future Forum to the Secretary of State.
The Future Forum, chaired by Professor Steve Field, identifies three ‘essential steps’ for the NHS Constitution to make a difference in the NHS:
- awareness must be raised dramatically among public, patients and staff – for staff, this means helping them really understand what the Constitution means for their everyday work
- the Constitution must be clearer about what happens when the NHS falls short of people’s rights or expectations
- the content needs updating and reinforcing in specific areas.
The areas in which the Future Forum says the Constitution should be updated and reinforced are:
- involving patients in decisions about their care
- supporting staff
- encouraging feedback and a more open working culture
- how information is used and protected
- ‘making every contact count’, so that healthcare professionals take every suitable opportunity to talk to patients about improving their health.
The Secretary of State has accepted the recommendations and is now consulting on proposals to strengthen the Constitution.
In a letter to the Secretary of State, Professor Steve Field says that “despite the importance and potential of the NHS Constitution, its effect so far has been patchy”.
The Future Forum also recommended more be done to make the Constitution clearer about what happens when the NHS falls short of people’s expectations. The Government is currently considering this and will announce next steps soon.
In addition, the Department of Health will be working with the NHS Commissioning Board, Health Education England and clinical commissioning groups – all of which have new duties to promote awareness of the Constitution – to consider how best to promote the Constitution and to make sure this is done in a co-ordinated way for the benefit of patients and staff.
The Secretary of State asked the NHS Future Forum in March to look at ways of strengthening and reinforcing the Constitution.
The Forum met representatives from patients’ groups, NHS staff, professional bodies and the voluntary sector. They spoke to patients, including young people and users of mental health services, and also gathered comments through conversation on social media.