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NHS Constitution ‘will inspire’ nurses

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Nurses will be able to judge their own performance, as well as that of their colleagues and employers, against an NHS Constitution published this week, according to health minister Ann Keen.

Ms Keen told Nursing Times she also hoped the new constitution would inspire a new generation of nurses as they joined the NHS.

Rights to training and development, as well as a safe working environment and fair pay, are all enshrined within the constitution.

Under its terms, the health secretary will be required to make a statement before parliament on whether NHS principles are being upheld.

Ms Keen said: ‘It provides clear responsibilities on health, professional development and the very important area of health and safety. When I started out as nurse, it would have been very helpful for me to have a document that spelt out how I fit in. It also spells out responsibilities to patients as well as to each other. A new generation of nurses coming through will see it as the norm.’

‘Part of my job is to go out into the health service and ensure that all staff including nurses are fully engaged with it,’ she added.

The performance of the NHS against its values of equality will also be measured by the government.

‘We will be able to measure that through the transparency of organisations and through tools such as the staff survey,’ said Ms Keen.

She also said that the constitution would help prevent any future government from attempting to abolish the NHS.

‘This will be owned by the public and the staff. Any political party that attempts to dismantle the NHS does so at their own risk,’ said Ms Keen.

Mike Jackson, Unison’s senior national officer for health, said: ‘The NHS Constitution enshrines the guiding principles of the NHS, providing a true blueprint for health care for generations to come. For the first time, we have a document that lays down the rights and responsibilities of both patients and staff.

‘Crucially, the constitution applies to any private health provider, paid by the NHS, bringing the public sector ethos and values into the private sector. Those who don’t want to work that way need not apply.’

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