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Patients to get 'bill of rights'

3 December 08 13:31 GMT

The health service will have a duty to follow the vision set out in the NHS constitution, the Queen has confirmed.

A health bill will be published next year alongside the final constitution, which is being dubbed a bill of rights and responsibilities for patients.

A draft constitution has already been consulted on and now the Queen has promised legislation to compel the NHS to adhere to the final document.

The forthcoming health bill is also expected to include smoking measures.

There has been talk of an NHS constitution for the past few years with both the Tories and health ministers floating the idea of a formal bill of rights for the NHS.

Prime minister Gordon Brown confirmed at the start of the year he wanted to see one drawn up to help mark the 60th anniversary of the health service this year.

A draft version was subsequently published by health minister Lord Darzi during the summer when he unveiled his review of the health service.

It set out a series of values for the health service, including the founding principle of a "comprehensive service available to all based on clinical need not ability to pay"

The document also detailed the rights and responsibilities of patients. It said they could expect free health care and to be treated professionally and with dignity and respect.

It also proposed enshrining the right for patients to seek care abroad where they faced undue delay.

But in return it suggested patients needed to take responsibility for their own health as well as registering with GPs, providing accurate information and keeping to appointments.

Milestone

The Department of Health said the constitution would represent a significant milestone for the health service.

A spokesman said: "For the first time it will set out the rights, pledges and responsibilities in one place."

But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Normal Lamb said the pledges were "inoffensive" and offer no more than the patients' charter that was published in the early 1990s.

He added: "This was a complete missed opportunity to introduce real guarantees for patients on waiting times and access and make the NHS more accountable to the people it serves."

Alongside the legislation for a constitution, the Queen said the health bill would include measures to protect children from tobacco.

This could lead to a curb on vending machines and the display of smoking products in shops.

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