NHS patients to get new legal rights

THE Department of Health has announced that all NHS patients will benefit from new enforceable rights. These entitlements will mean patients have the right to maximum waiting times for elective treatment and for urgent cancer referrals, or for the NHS to

THE Department of Health has announced that all NHS patients will benefit from new enforceable rights.

These entitlements will mean patients have the right to maximum waiting times for elective treatment and for urgent cancer referrals, or for the NHS to look for an alternative provider if this is not possible.

The new waiting times right will now be added to the NHS Constitution.

This will mean that, from April 1, patients will have the legal right to start treatment by a consultant within 18 weeks of GP referral and to be seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer or, if this does not happen, the NHS will be legally obliged to take all reasonable steps to offer them a range of alternative providers.


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And from April 1, 2012, everyone aged between 40 and 74 who is eligible will have the legal right to an NHS Health Check every five years.

The proposals for new legal rights on waiting times were supported by nearly nine out of ten people who responded to the consultation.

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In addition, nearly eight out of 10 supported a new patient right to an NHS Health Check.

NHS East of England chairman, Keith Pearson JP, said: "The NHS Constitution is the first document of its kind in the world, bringing together in one place what the NHS does, stands for and the commitments it should live up to.

"It describes and renews our commitment to the values and enduring principles of the NHS.

"NHS East of England has led the way in supporting the NHS Constitution and the improvements patients can now expect.

"By converting current targets into entitlements instead of targets, the NHS Constitution can be used to drive improvements for better services and better care for patients.

"This change also supports our vision, Towards the best, together, and Improving Lives; Saving Lives in delivering our pledges on increased access to our services and reducing premature deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer."

The consultation also received support for future rights on evening and weekend access to GPs, access to NHS dentistry, and the right to key diagnostic tests for patients suspected of having cancer within one week of seeing a GP, with an interim milestone of two weeks.

These ideas will be taken forward by the Department of Health as proposals for consultation in the future.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "Gone are the days of 18 month waiting times. Now average waiting times, from referral to treatment, are around eight weeks - and rapid access to cancer specialists is saving lives across the country.

"Now we are going to build on this strong foundation.

"Patients and the public have shown their overwhelming support for locking in the progress that the NHS has made - by turning targets into rights, we are giving patients the power to demand the services they are entitled to.

"As the NHS continues to improve, so will its Constitution - that is why we are already looking ahead at future rights. In particular, we want to press ahead with greater choice around end-of-life care and in the next Parliament we will bring forward proposals on a right for people to choose to die at home if they wish.

"The positive response to this consultation confirms the support for an NHS Constitution.

"As the NHS strives to move from good to great and becomes more people-centred and preventative, the Constitution will ensure that all the improvements it makes can be safeguarded for generations to come.

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