Your rights for treatment

The NHS Constitution sets out your rights as an NHS patient. These cover how you access health services, the quality of care you receive, the treatment available to you, confidentiality and your right to complain if things go wrong.

Choice of hospital

If your GP refers you to see a consultant, you can usually choose the hospital you go to. You may want to pick one with better results for your treatment or one near family. Speak to your GP to find out the options available for you.

Involvement in decision-making

You have the right to be involved in decisions about your own personal healthcare and when the NHS is planning new services or making changes to existing services. Visit our get involved section to find out more.

Your health records

You can view your own health records and don’t have to give a reason to see them. Talk to your GP to find out the easiest way to access them.

Legal right to maximum waiting times

Since 1 April 2010, patients have had the legal right to maximum waiting times to start treatment by a consultant within 18 weeks of GP referral, and to be seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of GP referral.

Privacy and dignity

You should always be treated with dignity and respect. This means, for example, that your right to privacy should be respected. If you stay in hospital, you should not have to share bathroom or sleeping facilities with people of the opposite sex, except when you need urgent or specialised care.


You have the right to have any complaint you make about the NHS dealt with efficiently and investigated properly. If you’re not sure where to start, find out more about how to make a complaint.

The NHS’s promise to you

The NHS Constitution makes certain pledges which go above and beyond your legal rights and are a commitment to provide high-quality health services.  For example:

  • The NHS commits to provide convenient, easy-to-access services.
  • The NHS commits to inform you about local and national healthcare services. Visit the NHS website to find out what services are available and where.
  • The NHS commits to ensure its services are delivered in a clean and safe environment.

You can see all the pledges the NHS makes to patients by downloading the NHS Constitution.

There is also a helpful handbook to the NHS Constitution, which is designed to give the public and patients, including their carers and families all the information you may need about the NHS Constitution for England.

What the NHS needs from you

The NHS is a valuable resource and we can all help it work effectively and ensure resources are used responsibly. The NHS Constitution explains the ways in which you can do this, including:

  • Recognising that you can make a significant contribution to your and your family’s health and wellbeing, and taking personal responsibility for your health where you can.
  • Registering with a GP practice. You can search for GP practices and other NHS services on the NHS website.
  • Following courses of treatment you’ve agreed to.
  • Always treating NHS staff and other patients with respect.
  • Keeping GP and hospital appointments – or if you have to cancel, doing so in good time.
  • Giving feedback – both positive and negative – about treatment you’ve received. We want to hear from you, so have your say.