Practice staff must respond to patient complaints within three working days under new proposed changes to the NHS Constitution.
Following recommendations by the NHS Future Forum, the new NHS Constitution aims to give patients “stronger rights” including access to single sex wards and increased involvement in end of life care.
Under the new proposals, health professionals must also pledge to explain and apologise for any mistakes made in their patient’s care.
Failure to do so will mean patients may be within their rights to take legal action against the NHS organisation at fault.
Violent or abusive patients may also be denied care on the NHS under new proposed changes to the NHS Constitution.
“We are clear that the founding principles of the NHS – free at the point of delivery to all, regardless of their ability to pay – will not only be supported, but reinforced,” said Health Minister Norman Lamb.
“The NHS is one of this country’s greatest achievements. The government will always make sure it is free to all, no matter your age or the size of your bank balance. That’s why at the same time as we are protecting its budget, we are strengthening this constitution, which enshrines the right of everyone to have first class care, now and in the future.
“We said we would protect and improve the NHS, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The government has also endorsed the NHS Future Forum’s “every contact counts” initiative and the new NHS Constitution will set out a responsibility for general practice staff to support patients to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has pledged its support for increasing openness in the health service and said it is “essential” the government disseminates the Constitution “as widely as possible” so that patients, public and staff are made aware of their rights.