The following rights will be legally binding and will be enshrined in the NHS Constitution:
- Everyone will be guaranteed treatment within 18 weeks of seeing a GP or the NHS will fund their treatment in the private sector.
- All patients will be able to see a cancer specialist within two weeks of GP referral, and the results of tests for cancer will be available within one week.
- Everyone aged between 40 and 74 is to receive routine NHS health checks.
- Everyone will have the right to choose a GP who offers weekend and evening opening.
Patients who do not turn up to pre-booked appointments 'will not be guaranteed fast-track treatment'.
Cancer patients will be offered one-to-one dedicated nursing care. Everyone who wants it will receive palliative care in their own home. Everyone with a long-term condition will have the right to an individual budget and a care plan. All women will have the right to a homebirth (in cases in which it is safe). A new national 111 phone number will be introduced through which people can book non-emergency services. There will be a 'major expansion' in care available at home, including chemotherapy and dialysis. All 'leading drugs available internationally' will be assessed by NICE and those approved will be made available within six months of referral to NICE.
The independent sector
Independent sector providers will be encouraged to work alongside the NHS 'particularly where they bring innovation' and increase capacity. NHS services will be given a chance to improve before alternative providers are considered. Patients requiring elective care will have the legal right to choose from any provider 'who meets NHS standards of quality at NHS costs'.
Patients will have the right to choose to register with any GP, including near their place of work. The availability of GP-led health centres offering treatment from 8am to 8pm will be expanded.
A new National Care Service will be established, which is intended to 'remove unfair postcode lotteries' and 'protect family homes and savings' from the costs of care. It is to be established in three stages:
- From 2011 those with the 'greatest care needs' will receive free personal care at home
- From 2014 the costs of residential care homes will be capped so that homes and savings will be 'protected from care charges' after two years. This is to be funded by a freeze in inheritance tax thresholds until 2014-15, through efficiencies in the NHS and care system and by supporting people to work over the state pension age if they want to.
- After 2015 a National Care Service will be established, free at the point of use for all adults with an eligible care need, not just older people. A commission will be set up on how to finance this system.
All hospitals will become foundation trusts. Successful foundation trusts will be able to take over those that are under-performing and will be given the freedom to provide primary and community care. Hospitals that fail will have their management replaced. Membership of foundation trusts is to be increased to more than three million by the end of the next parliament.
Health care-acquired infections
Every patient who comes into an NHS hospital will be screened for MRSA. More than 3,000 matrons will have the power to order deep cleaning and report problems directly to hospital boards. National standards of infection control will be established. The safety regulator will have the power to impose fines, order cleaning or close wards where necessary.
Access to psychological therapy will be offered 'for all who need it', with more than 8,000 new therapists over the course of the next parliament.
The NHS IT programme will be scaled down. There will be no structural changes to primary care trusts or strategic health authorities over the course of the next parliament.