NHS Confederation responds to the proposed changes to the NHS Constitution

Matthew Taylor responds to the proposed changes to the NHS Constitution

29 April 2024

Responding to the Department of Health and Social Care's proposed changes to the NHS Constitution for England, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said:

“The NHS Constitution is a vital resource setting out the principles and values that govern the NHS and what patients, staff and the wider public can expect to receive from the health service. As such, we and our members will need to review the proposals in detail as part of the government’s consultation process.

“What is absolutely clear at this stage is that a focus on high quality care for all is maintained and that the NHS is not dragged into a pre-election culture wars debate. This is not where energies should be focused.

“This is especially true when health leaders and their staff already work hard every day to show fairness and compassion towards all their patients and colleagues regardless of their characteristics or needs. They recognise that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be protected from abuse and neglect. In particular, groups of people, including trans and non-binary patients, continue to receive some of the worst health outcomes of any group in our society and NHS leaders and staff will want to do all they can to support these patients, as well as their trans and non-binary staff to reduce inequalities. Whatever changes are eventually introduced following the consultation need to be clear and workable for NHS staff, who should not expect to have to interpret ambiguous guidance at a local level.

“The opportunity to update the NHS Constitution should not be about grabbing headlines, but to strive to reach a consensus around upholding these core values and closing the gap between the waiting time standards it mandates and where performance levels are currently. This should include facing up to the reality that the government has overseen an NHS budget that has not kept pace with demand and demographic changes.

“For example, the current NHS Constitution advocates a maximum wait of four hours in A&E from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge. When the constitution first published in March 2012, 7.5% of patients were waiting longer than this time yet in March 2024, this had increased to 25.8%. When it comes to elective care, in March 2012 there were 2.33m entries on the waiting list, but in February 2023 there were 7.54m. There is absolutely no chance of recovering this or the other constitutional standards without further capital investment and delivering the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

“Our members support the introduction of new ways to improve patient safety and they have welcomed the piloting of Martha’s Rule. If the scheme is to be extended, questions will need to be answered about what resources hospitals and other providers will be given to ensure it can be delivered.”