NHS 'constitution' urges good health

The nation will be urged to keep itself in trim and avoid getting too fat under a list of patients' responsibilities to be drawn up as part of the first "constitution" for the National Health Service.

The document being considered by Gordon Brown will urge people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing as well as listing what they can expect from the NHS.

The constitution, heralded by the Prime Minister today in an open letter to NHS staff, will reinforce the Government's commitment to patient choice, and reiterate pledges on waiting times and access to family doctors and mark a significant shift toward preventative health care.

In his letter marking the 60th anniversary of the NHS this year, Mr Brown outlined his vision for the institution which is sure to be a central political battleground between Labour and the Conservatives.

Mr Brown said: "I intend for this to be the year in which we demonstrate beyond a doubt that the NHS is as vital for our next 60 years as it was for our last more relevant to our future and the challenges we face than ever before."

Mr Brown stressed a new emphasis on preventing health problems, and pledged to give patients "far greater control and choice over their own health and their health care." He said: "We need an NHS that gives all of those with long-term or chronic conditions the choice of greater support, information and advice, allowing them to play a far more active role in managing their own condition in partnership with their clinicians."

The NHS constitution will stress the Government's pledges to open up choice in the health service and emphasise targets to cut maximum patients waiting times to 18 weeks. It will also cover plans to improve access to family doctors.

But patients will be urged to take control of their own health, with the document stressing the importance of staying healthy, and avoiding smoking and obesity.

However, senior Government sources insisted the responsibilities in the document would not override the fundamental role of the NHS in providing care to all on the basis of need.

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