NHS Constitution – from fact to fiction

The NHS Constitution was originally drawn up by the then Labour government to mark the NHS’s 60th anniversary in 2008 and to ensure that the revival of the NHS in the noughties was protected for the future.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the incoming coalition government retained the constitution and, with periodic updating, it has remained on the stocks to this day, largely unheralded but still an important statement of rights and responsibilities surrounding what the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics celebrated as one of our greatest national achievements.

The gap between what the NHS Constitution provides and what the NHS delivers is, however, widening by the day. Slowly but surely, CCGs are cutting the services they make available to patients as they struggle to live within their means. NHS England has also made it clear that it considers the right to drugs and treatments recommended by NICE increasingly unaffordable.

Performance standards also seem to be on the slide, with the Patients’ Association registering an 80% increase in patients waiting more than 18 weeks for elective surgery between 2014 and 2015 and the waiting list for routine surgery rising to 3.34 million in the last quarter of 2015/16.

The margins may sometimes seem small but the message is clear; right across the board performance is deteriorating and the prospects of meeting many of the major provisions of the NHS Constitution are effectively zero.

As Theresa May repeats her determination to ensure that everyone can share in the country’s prosperity, the time has surely come to consider the means necessary to deliver the NHS Constitution.

All posts by John Murray

Views expressed are those of the author, not JMC Partners.