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NHS Constitution has 'limited impact'

NHS Constitution has 'limited impact'

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The government needs to place a greater focus on embedding the NHS Constitution, a report has claimed. 

The Expert Advisory Group to the NHS Constitution has set out ten recommendations to the Department of Health, national and local organisations for increasing the impact of the Constitution. 

The report claims that although the Constitution has "continued to be a powerful expression of the values and principles which underpin the NHS", the relevance and impact in practice remains "limited". 

The Expert Group believes that frequent changes to the Constitution risk undermining its status as an enduring statement. 

The report reads: "However, we also recognise that the Constitution must evolve and that therefore, there is a balance to be struck. We recommend that no changes are considered until the next legally required report on the effect of the Constitution is published in 2015 and that in the meantime the emphasis is on implementation.

"For the NHS Constitution to have a positive impact on NHS culture it must be embedded in every part of the NHS family: providers of NHS services (whether they are private, voluntary sector or NHS), commissioners, regulators and other national bodies, primary and community services as well as those based in hospitals, the public health community and educators." 

National Voices’ chief executive, Jeremy Taylor, who is a member of the Expert Advisory Group, said: “There’s been much talk about the NHS Constitution. Now it is time for action. This is reflected in our recommendations.  While the Constitution is everybody’s business there is also a very clear leadership role for the Department of Health and other national bodies.  We look forward to working with them on a plan of action that turns the fine words into reality for patients, users of services and carers.” 

'Half-hearted'

The report reads: "The principles, values, rights and pledges of the NHS Constitution have too often seemed more aspirations than reality. This must change. To make the transition from warm words to reality, the entire NHS must accept responsibility for implementing the Constitution and living its values in everything it does.

"Our recommendations are aimed at achieving this. They lay out ways to make the NHS Constitution more visible, accessible for and applicable to patients, the public and staff. We urge the Department, in partnership with relevant national and local organisations to take these recommendations forwards so that the Constitution, its principles, values, rights and pledges are lived out in practice as well as in theory." 

Further recommendations suggest that a system is developed to effectively monitor the extent to which the rights and pledges in the NHS Constitution are being met. 

Also, there has never been a national campaign to raise awareness of the NHS Constitution aimed at patients and the public, and according to the Advisory Group, the awareness raising efforts aimed at staff have often been "patchy and half-hearted" 

The report recommends that the Department, in partnership with NHS England, Health Education England, clinical commissioning groups and other bodies drive and fund such a campaign.

And a guide to complaints and feedback should be developed as a supplement to the NHS Constitution to provide greater clarification for people on how to use the complaints process. 

The full report is available to view on the Department of Health website

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