The Patient's Charter

On the 1st April 1992 the then Conservative Government of the UK introduced what it called the "Patients Charter" which supposedly reinforced existing patient "rights" and added three "important new rights".

Existing Rights

These "rights" were claimed to be the established rights of every citizen.

1. To receive health care on the basis of need and not ability to pay.

2. To be registered with a doctor in General Practice.

3. To receive medical care at any time from the GP or the NHS service.

4. To be referred to a consultant when necessary and to have a second opinion if this is considered desirable by the patient and General Practitioner.

5. To be given clear information of treatment, its risks and any alternatives before agreeing with the procedure.

6. To have access to health records and to keep them confidential.

7. To choose to refuse or to take part in medical research or student training.

The Three New Rights

1. To be given detailed information on local health services and their quality standards and waiting times.

2. To be guaranteed admission for treatment within 2 years of placement on a waiting list.

3. To have any complaint investigated and to receive a prompt and full written reply from the Chief Executive or general manager of the Hospital.

The National Charter Standards

The government aimed to provide higher standards of service and this included a further nine Charter Standards.

1. To show respect for privacy, dignity and religious and cultural beliefs which included meals for special diets and private rooms for confidential discussions.

2. To ensure that everyone can use the service even if they have special needs.

3. To ensure that relatives and friends are properly informed in accordance with the patient's wishes.

4. To limit waiting times for ambulance services to under 14 minutes in urban areas and under 19 minutes in rural areas.

5. To ensure that initial assessments in accident and emergency are performed immediately.

6. To limit waiting to be seen after appointment times in Outpatient clinics to under thirty minutes.

7. To stop the cancellation of operations on the day of the arrival in hospital except in special circumstances and to ensure that admission is made within one month should a second appointment also be cancelled.

8. To ensure that a named nurse, midwife or health visitor is responsible for each patient.

9. To agree arrangements for meeting the needs of patients before discharge from the Hospital and to keep the patient and carers informed at all times.

The Charter Rights were said to be "Guaranteed".

The new Labour Government issued an update to this Charter called the NHS plan, launched in July 2000 and claimed to be improving the NHS.
The "core principles" remained
to provide a universal service for all based on clinical need and not ability to pay,
to provide a comprehensive range of services,
to shape services to the needs of patients and their families,
to respond to the different needs of different populations,
to work to improve services and reduce errors,
to support and value its staff, (hopefully not when in breach of NHS rules),
to devote public funds solely to NHS patients,
to ensure a "seamless service" for patients,
to keep people healthy and to reduce health inequalities,
to respect confidentiality and provide open access to information about the activities of the NHS.
They also established the NHS Direct service which has caused considerable controversy and is thought to have increased the work loads of both the ambulance services and other medical staff.
This service was made accessible both by telephone with direct access to a nurse and by access to the internet at where they offer guidelines on self help.

Improvements for the future were expected to be on-line information on opening times for pharmacies and information about GPs.
By 2004 it was hoped that a patient would be able to see a nurse within 24 hours and a doctor within two days. Repeat prescriptions would be available without the need to see a GP who might by then be able to offer some treatments only currently available in Hospitals.

By 2004 it was also hoped that no-one would wait more than four hours in accident and emergency and that waiting times there would fall to 75 minutes.
Paramedics would be able to offer emergency heart treatments and ambulances would be equipped with video links to aid treatment and care advice.
There was also a pledge to provide better care for the mentally ill, coronary and cancer patients.
From 2002 if an operation is cancelled the pledge was for a new date within 28 days and failing that to provide the treatment in another hospital.
It was hoped that 95% of hospital accommodation would be single-sex by 2002.

By 2005 it was hoped that cancer patients should not have to wait more than a month between diagnosis and treatment and waiting lists would be replaced by booking systems with guaranteed waiting times. Longest times for routine outpatient appointments would be three months and six months for in-patients.

Other web sites to which interested parties are referred are and

Dated 11/8/2001

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