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National Voices urges the Department of Health and Social Care to pause the NHS Constitution consultation process

National Voices and the Richmond Group of Charities, supported by 71 patient charities, have today issued a joint statement calling for the NHS Constitution consultation process to be urgently paused, amid concerns regarding accessibility and the disruption to this process following the General Election announcement.

  • Health inequalities
  • Communication and administration

The NHS Constitution consultation is one of the most important health consultations in the last decade, as it sets out the principles, values, rights and pledges underpinning the NHS for the next ten years. As of 27 May 2024, according to YouGov, 45% of people polled consider health to be the most important issue facing the country, ranking only below the economy at 51%. 

Yet the recent General Election announcement will disrupt the consultation and people’s ability to respond. In order to comply with rules and regulations around the election, the Department of Health and Social Care will cease any planned promotion of the consultation, which up to this point has already been significantly lacking.  

As a result, in a joint statement issued today, National Voices and the Richmond Group of Charities, along with 71 patient charities, call for the process to be paused and/or extended for an appropriate period beyond the election on 5 July. 

The NHS Constitution consultation aims to hear from patients, carers, NHS staff and the public. However, the consultation process falls worryingly short in terms of accessibility and we have estimated that as many as a quarter of the population are excluded from being able to respond and have their say on a document that will directly impact their experience of healthcare. 

The ways in which the consultation falls short are as follows:  

  • It is only being conducted online, excluding 8.5 million people lacking basic digital skills, and people who cannot afford online access. 
  • The language used is very technical, estimated to require a reading age of 15-18 years. 
  • There are no translated versions available. 
  • There is no support for BSL users, excluding Deaf people who face significant health inequalities. 

Jacob Lant, Chief Executive of National Voices says:

Everyone should be able to have their say on the next ten years of the NHS, especially individuals and groups facing health inequalities.  

The numerous ways in which the consultation is inaccessible, and calling a general election halfway through the response period, preventing any further promotion of the consultation, means it will be unable to achieve this key aim.

Such an important document should be shaped by the next government, following the outcome of the general election, who will have a clear mandate for any proposed changes.  

The next government should then restart this vital conversation with the public, ensuring that nobody is excluded.

Duleep Allirajah, Chief Executive of the Richmond Group of Charities says:

The 10-year review of the NHS Constitution could be an opportunity for a meaningful public conversation about what our future health service should look like. Yet that opportunity will be squandered if the Department for Health and Social Care presses ahead with a consultation process that is frankly inadequate and tokenistic.