The NHS constitution will provide real benefits to patients - The King's Fund response to the Queen's Speech

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Responding to the NHS Reform Bill outlined in today’s Queen’s Speech, which will create a duty to take account of the new NHS Constitution and also introduce measures to improve the quality of health care and public health, The King’s Fund’s Chief Executive Niall Dickson said:

On a new constitution for the NHS

'A constitution for the NHS is a welcome move. Patients should be able to see what they are entitled to – setting out their rights and how they can exercise them will be worthwhile. The constitution will reiterate the core principles and values underpinning the NHS and enshrine the right of patients to choose where and how they are treated. This will help patients take greater control of their own health care.

'But for it to be worthy of the name, the constitution must be a document that will endure. The last thing we would want to see is the constitution vulnerable to change with every incoming government. As much as possible any changes to its content should only be made following cross-party support.'

On the requirement for NHS providers to produce quality accounts

'This will mark a new era for the NHS – for the first time in a systematic way hospitals will be held to account for the quality and outcomes of the care they provide to patients as well as whether or not they balance their books. This is good news for patients as they will be able to check on the quality of the services they are being offered from infection levels to success rates following operations. There is a long way to go before we have all the information we need but this should help us all make more informed choices and put pressure on those providing care to do better.'

On direct payments for health services

'While personal budgets and direct payments are used in social care, their effective use in health care poses some challenges. Getting the initial payment level right will be important, as well as determining who would pay for care should a patient’s budget run out. Despite these concerns this is a reform that is well worth piloting. But any use of direct payments or personal budgets in health care should be carefully evaluated and all the implications understood before any decisions are made about their wider use in the NHS. There is a tendency for ministers to assume that a pilot is the first stage of a roll out – in this case we do need to wait and carefully assess the results.'

Notes to editors

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact The King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The King’s Fund seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, developing leaders and improving services. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health share knowledge, learning and ideas.