The NHS Constitution

NHS Constitution logo

The NHS is there for us from the moment we are born. It takes care of us and our family members when we need it most.

The NHS Constitution has been created to protect the NHS and make sure it will always do the things it was set up to do in 1948 – to provide high-quality healthcare that’s free and for everyone. No government can change the Constitution without the full involvement of staff, patients and the public. The Constitution is a promise that the NHS will always be there for you.  

You can see all the pledges the NHS makes to patients by downloading the NHS Constitution or see our summary below.

There is also a helpful handbook to the NHS Constitution, which is designed to give the public and patients, including their carers and families all the information you may need about the NHS Constitution for England.

Free NHS services

You have the right to receive NHS services free of charge, apart from certain limited exceptions sanctioned by Parliament.

Patient Choice

  • You have the right to choose your GP practice, and to be accepted by that practice unless there are reasonable grounds to refuse, in which case you will be informed of those reasons
  • You have the right to express a preference for using a particular doctor within your GP practice, and for the practice to try to comply
  • You have the right to make choices about the services commissioned by NHS bodies and to information to support these choices. The options available to you will develop over time and depend on your individual needs.

Right to drugs and treatment

You have the right to drugs and treatments that have been recommended by NICE for use in the NHS, if your doctor says they are clinically appropriate for you.

Requests for treatment in other European countries

If you are thinking about requesting treatment in another European country more information can be found on the NHS Choices website. Applications are dealt with by NHS England through a central team. Specific enquiries can be addressed to

What the NHS needs from you

The NHS is a valuable resource and we can all help it work effectively and ensure resources are used responsibly. The NHS Constitution explains the ways in which you can do this, including:

  • Recognising that you can make a significant contribution to your and your family's health and wellbeing, and taking personal responsibility for your health where you can
  • Registering with a GP practice. You can search for GP practices and other NHS services on NHS Choices
  • Following courses of treatment you've agreed to
  • Always treating NHS staff and other patients with respect
  • Keeping GP and hospital appointments - or if you have to cancel, doing so in good time
  • Giving feedback – both positive and negative – about treatment you've received. We want to hear from you, so have your say.