The NHS is struggling to cope with record demand and social care services are stretched to the limit. Recent headlines have highlighted how some people have been forced to wait up to twelve hours for ambulances, despite being in critical condition, as a result.
However, all patients using the NHS and its services are entitled to certain standards when it comes to their medical care – mental, physical or emotional. They are also covered by the NHS Constitution, which sets out the rights you have as a patient of NHS services. All health care personnel must involve you in decisions and treat you with kindness, dignity and respect. You also have the right to complain if things don’t go as expected.
So what does the Constitution cover? Well, your rights and responsibilities as a patient include:
- Access to health services
- Good quality of care
- Be attended by duly qualified and experienced personnel.
- Make decisions about medications and treatments.
- Be protected from abuse and neglect
- Respect and confidentiality
- Complain if you are not happy or if things go wrong.
Rights to GP services:
You have the right to choose your primary care physician’s practice, unless there are reasonable grounds for refusing. If you can’t find a practice that will accept you, the NHS England or local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) should find one for you.
You can make an appointment with a GP of your choice and the practice must try to comply with your wishes. You do not have the right to get a second opinion, but you can ask another GP or a specialist to refer you for a second opinion. You are also entitled to receive vaccinations provided by the NHS national immunization programme.
How long do I have to wait for treatment?
You must begin your consultant-directed treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks of referral for non-urgent conditions. If your GP makes an urgent referral due to suspected cancer, you should see a cancer specialist within two weeks from the date of the referral.
You have the right to choose which hospital you are referred to for an outpatient appointment for a physical or mental health condition. However, the hospital you choose must provide the appropriate care for your condition and be designated by the NHS to provide that service.
If your GP wants to make an urgent referral, for example due to a suspicion of cancer, you cannot choose which services to use, your GP will select them for you. You do not have the right to choose where you receive treatment if you are detained under the Mental Health Act.
Can I complain about NHS services?
You have the right to expect good quality services from the NHS. You can file a complaint if you are not satisfied with the service or care you receive, or if you feel you have been treated unfairly.
What can I complain about?
You can make a complaint about any aspect of NHS care, treatment or services. This includes GPs, hospitals, pharmacies, ambulances or community health services.
Your concern or complaint may be about:
- A consultation or specific treatment
- your overall care
- Staff attitude
- Difficulty making appointments or late appointments
- Poor or inadequate communication about your care
- The amount of time or route taken to reach a diagnosis.