NHS constitution to set out healthcare standards

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Indy Politics

The NHS will have its first constitution under measures included in a Health Bill in today's Queen's Speech.

The constitution will set out the rights and responsibilities linked to entitlement to NHS care, and the Bill will place a duty on all providers and commissioners of state healthcare to take it into account.

The Bill, to be published by Health Secretary Alan Johnson, will also allow the further development of "personalised" health services and direct payments for healthcare.

And it will include measures to protect children and young people from the harm caused by smoking.

Announcing the measures shortly after the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS, ministers said they showed the Government remained "committed to ensuring the highest possible standards of care and to giving more power to individuals to shape the care they need".

Unveiled in draft form in June this year following the year-long review by Lord Darzi, the NHS constitution is expected to enshrine a universal right to approved treatments "if clinically appropriate" as well as measures to end the "postcode lottery" where some patients have been denied access to drugs by NHS trusts while others have not.

It includes plans to force all hospitals to publish "quality accounts" of the care they provide in the same way the publish financial accounts.

Announcing the Bill to MPs and peers in her speech, the Queen said: "Because the health of the nation is vital to its success and well-being, a Bill will be brought forward to strengthen the National Health Service.

"The Bill would create a duty to take account of the new NHS Constitution that will set out the core principles of the service and the rights and responsibilities of patients and staff. The Bill would also introduce measures to improve the quality of healthcare and public health."

The Bill also extends the remit of the Local Government Ombudsman to consider complaints from people who have arranged their own adult social care.