Introduction: What is the NHS?

“The NHS belongs to the people. It provides a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, or marital or civil partnership status”. NHS Constitution

The NHS began in 1948 out of a principle that good healthcare should be available to all, with access based on clinical need, not ability to pay. That principle, of putting patients first, remains at its core. NHS services are free of charge to patients in England, except where permitted by Parliament. The service’s original focus was the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Now it plays an increasing role in both preventing ill health and improving the physical and mental health of the population.

The rights to which patients, families, carers, the public and staff are entitled, and the pledges that the NHS is committed to achieve, are now set out in the NHS Constitution. Visit to view the NHS Constitution. It articulates  the shared values of the NHS, and the responsibilities towards the NHS that patients, families, carers, the public and staff have as they experience or work in NHS services.

A number of different organisations make up and support the set of common set of principles and values which are the NHS. Some of these are NHS organisations as set out in law, such as clinical commissioning groups.

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