Nurse leaders have questioned Scottish government proposals to introduce a Patients’ Rights Bill early next year.
First minister Alex Salmond yesterday confirmed it would introduce the bill to the Scottish Parliament as part of its 2009-10 programme.
It will strengthen the complaints system by creating patients rights officers and offering additional support to complainants.
It would also introduce a “12 week waiting time guarantee” for daycases and inpatients.
The government said the bill would “reinforce and strengthen the government’s commitment to place patients at the centre of the NHS in Scotland”.
However, Royal College of Nursing Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said she was concerned it would not make any difference, and would not improve equity of access.
She said: “It is not clear how the Patients’ Rights Bill is going to make any meaningful difference to the care that patients receive.
“We are also concerned that the [bill] would not necessarily mean equity of access to healthcare services for all patients.
“The bill must ensure that equal rights for all does not mean that those most articulate members of the public can use the system to guarantee the quickest access to services, thus contributing further to health inequalities.
“Instead, should more emphasis be given to assistance for those people who have difficulty in accessing healthcare services?
“RCN Scotland believes that the NHS should be centred on the needs of patients. As such, the government must ensure that the Patients’ Rights Bill is successful in delivering this vision and not a missed opportunity.”
A government consultation on proposals for the bill ended in January.
The NHS constitution in England is being introduced in the Health Bill which is currently before Parliament.