The government is today launching a review of the NHS Constitution, part of which will be carried out by a new NHS Future Forum group.
The constitution was launched under the previous Labour government by former health secretary Andy Burnham. Current health secretary Andrew Lansley was today due to assert his commitment to its contents.
It could be seen as an attempt by Mr Lansley to counter suggestions he is undermining NHS “founding principles”.
In an advance statement Mr Lansley said: “I believe in the NHS Constitution, which enshrines the principles which will always hold true for the NHS. This isn’t about starting from scratch – this is about revitalising these rights and pledges. Patients are at the centre of our reforms, and with the help of the independent panel we will look to strengthen the NHS Constitution to make sure it is working for the benefit of patients and staff.”
The government has said it wants to add “a new commitment to support whistleblowing and tackle poor patient care”.
A review of the current contents and impact of the constitution - including a survey of NHS staff awareness of it - will be carried out by July.
Then, the Future Forum group, led by GP Steve Field, will carry out a further review of the Constitution, alongside a formal government consultation.
Professor Field said the review would look at, for example, the practicalities and implications of patients’ right to drugs approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. It will also examine rights to dignity in care, which Professor Field said had clearly been breached in the case of some recent care scandals.
He said: “The point of the constitution is the NHS values are so important they should transcend party politics.”
The review group will include some members from the previous Future Forum, and some new members including representatives from Unison, the Royal College of Nursing and British Medical Association.
They will also include Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive Ciaran Devane; former adviser to Sir David Nicholson, Jo Lenahan; National Voices chief executive Jeremy Taylor; and a representative of independent health provider Virgin Care.
The first meeting was due to take place today.