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19th June 2024

Sustainability in the NHS Constitution in England

The 10 year review of the NHS Constitution includes a new value on sustainability. This is a welcome step, but the wording needs to be better.

The NHS Constitution, which was first published in 2009,  sets out the principles, values, rights and pledges underpinning the NHS in England. It’s intended to empower patients, staff, and citizens and improve the quality, efficiency, and responsiveness of the service. 

A nationally representative poll of 1812 adults by HealthWatch showed that fewer than a quarter of people (24%) knew of the constitution, a proportion that fell to 12% in those over 55. The constitution was revised in 2013 and is now being revised again—after consultation.

For the first time the constitution will include a statement on  sustainability. This is the proposed statement:

We play our part in achieving legislative commitments on the environment. We do this by improving our resilience and efficiency, while always prioritising value for money. We will never compromise standards of care or the needs of patients in pursuit of these targets.”

UKHACC has responded to the consultation, and if you are quick you can respond as well. The link to respond is here. You have until 11.59pm on 25 June.

Although UKHACC is pleased that the NHS plans to include a statement on sustainability, we think it a weak statement undermined by reasons on why it won’t be considered important. We also responded with these comments:

UKHACC proposed an alternative statement:

“Because the climate emergency is a health emergency, we will reach carbon net-zero on all we directly control by 2040 and all we consume by 2045. We will reduce our harm to nature and the environment to a minimum and where possible improve both. We will make the NHS more resilient to climate change and help people recognise the benefits to their health of adopting a more nature-friendly lifestyle.”

UKHACC thinks this is better because it explains to people that the climate emergency is a health emergency and why the NHS needs to act. It’s more specific and fits with what is in the Health and Care Bill and is more positive. The statement also recognises the role of the NHS in helping people change in ways that will be good for them, nature, and the environment.