All the four constituent countries of United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have publicly funded healthcare systems. The terms ‘National Health Service’ and ‘NHS’ are used to refer to the four systems collectively.
The National Health Service was created by the National Health Service Act of 1946. It guarantees equal healthcare to all citizens of the UK. Health services are free except for certain minor charges. The UK Department of Health oversees the NHS. The organisation is primarily funded by taxation and provides free or low-cost healthcare to all legal residents of the UK. Medications are subsidised. Under certain circumstances, they may also be free. Specific policies vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The UK government wants the NHS to deliver better results keeping it relevant with modern medical healthcare and treatment requirements. To achieve this, it has a set of laws under the umbrella of the UK National Health Service law. The objective is to give patients more choice and provide freedom to doctors and nurses in shaping services for meeting the patient’s needs.
The NHS was founded on a common set of principles and values. The NHS Constitution establishes the principles and values of NHS in England. It establishes the rights for patients, public and staff, and pledges that NHS is committed to achieving them. It also defines the responsibilities which patients, public, and staff owe to each other for ensuring fair and effective NHS operations. Rights cover how patients access health services, the quality of care, treatments and programmes available, patient confidentiality, information, and the right to complain in case of a problem. The NHS expects citizens to take responsibility for their health and use the NHS with respect.
Everyone in England who falls under the ambit of NHS has legal rights covering the following.
- Right to access health services
- Right to quality of care and environment. For instance, the provision for same-sex hospital accommodation
- Right to treatment and drugs
- Right regarding consent to treatment or surgery and confidentiality
- Right with respect to patient choice
- Right to be involved in one’s own healthcare. Examples of this right include schemes such as personal health budgets
- Right to complaints and redress
Access to NHS is based on clinical need, and not on the ability of the patient to pay. This guiding principle has made NHS one of the best public healthcare systems in the world.