Your Rights and Responsibilities

The NHS constitution is designed to protect the NHS in England and to help ensure that it will always be there for you when you need it. It sets out the rights and responsibilities for UK residents (or from EU countries and foreign visitors) and rules what you can expect from the NHS and what the NHS expects in return.

Whilst it is not a legally binding document, it cannot be changed without the full involvement of patients, staff and general public.

The citizens advice bureau public information website, also sets out patients’ rights for each of the four countries.

Some of your rights and responsibilities as a patient

As a patient your rights and expectations as described in the NHS constitution include:

  • Convenient and easy access to health services free of charge and within maximum waiting times
  • A good quality of care and environment based on best practice
  • Not to be discriminated against on the grounds of gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation, disability or age
  • To receive drugs and treatment as recommended by the national institute for health and clinical excellence (NICE) for use in the NHS if your doctor feels it is clinically appropriate for you
  • Decisions made in a clear and transparent way so you can understand how services are planned and delivered
  • To be treated with dignity and respect in accordance with your human rights
  • The right to privacy and confidentiality

In return, as an NHS patient, you have the responsibility to:

  • Recognise that you can make a significant contribution to your own and your family’s good health and wellbeing and take some personal responsibility for it
  • Register with a GP Practice as the main point of access to NHS care
  • Treat NHS staff and other patients with respect
  • Provide accurate information about your health, condition and status
  • Keep appointments or cancel in reasonable time so that other patients can benefit from the appointment slot
  • Follow the course of treatment which you have agreed with your GP and talk to your doctor if this is difficult
  • Give feedback, both positive and negative, about the care you have received

Practice responsibilities

Every GP Practice has a responsibility to ensure that everyone who needs to use their services can do so.

If you have particular difficulties that affect your access to your GP you should raise these with your practice so they can work with you to resolve them.

For example:

  • Do you have hearing difficulties and need staff to speak clearly and slowly, facing you at all times or do you need a sign language interpreter or lip reader?
  • Do you have other communication difficulties and need to use support aids?
  • Would you like practice information provided in a different format such as large print, braille, on tape or disk?
  • Does anxiety make it difficult for you to wait in the waiting room so you need alternative arrangements while waiting for your appointment?
  • Do you have memory problems which mean you forget your appointment and need a reminder or an appointment card?
  • Do you have problems accessing the building itself such as using stairs or opening heavy doors?
  • Does your mental health problems or learning needs mean you need longer appointment times to ensure you have a long enough time with your GP to explain and understand your health issue?
  • Are you a carer who needs additional support such as home visits or appointments at specific times?