In March 2012, the NHS Future Forum working group on the NHS Constitution, chaired by Professor Sir Steve Field, was tasked with advising the Secretary of State for Health on ways to strengthen the NHS Constitution.

On 5 November 2012, the Government launched a consultation seeking views on the NHS Future Forum’s recommendations for reinforcing the Constitution in the areas of patient involvement, feedback, duty of candour, end of life care, integrated care, complaints, patient data, staff rights and responsibilities, and dignity, respect and compassion.

The most immediate outcome of the Government’s response to the consultation will be the implementation of The National Health Service (Revision of NHS Constitution—Principles) Regulations 2013, which will come into force on 1 April 2013.

The regulations make revisions to four of the seven guiding principles within the Constitution:

Principle 1: The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, etc

will be updated to reflect the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010, including gender reassignment and marital or civil partnership status, and the commitment to ensure that mental health is to be given parity with physical health.

Principle 3: The NHS aspires to the highest standards of excellence and professionalism

will be revised to emphasise the importance of treating patients with respect, dignity and compassion and improving patient outcomes by ensuring staff are valued, empowered and supported.

Principle 4: NHS services must reflect the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers

will be amended to begin "The NHS aspires to put patients at the heart of everything it does", and will commit to actively encourage and use feedback from patients, public and staff to improve services.

Principle 5: The NHS works across organisational boundaries and in partnership with other organisations in the interests of patients, etc

will be updated to reflect the breadth and range of bodies with whom the NHS will work to deliver integrated care.

Further information on the response to the consultation will be available when the updated Constitution is published.

As those of you who have already read the Francis Report will be aware, Sir Roberts Francis QC advocates that the NHS Constitution should be made the point of first reference common to all NHS patients and staff in respect of the system’s values and their respective rights, obligations and legitimate expectations. A summary of his recommendations with regard to the Constitution can be found in our Values and standards briefing.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will have a statutory duty to promote the NHS Constitution, alongside the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) and Health Education England (HEE). The NHS CB is proposing working together with CCGs and HEE to co-produce and implement a joint strategy for promoting and embedding the Constitution in everything that the NHS does, including appropriate means of monitoring progress and impact.

Workshops are being planned for each of the four regions and CCGs are being invited to attend.