Commenting on today's launch of the NHS Constitution for England, Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the British Medical Association (BMA), says:
"The patients who depend on the NHS and the staff who work in it have both long deserved a clearer idea of their rights and responsibilities. This is a welcome restatement of the principles of equality and compassion on which the health service is based.
"Yet we need more than a "feelgood" document. In its current form, it is unclear how the Constitution will change the everyday experiences of patients and staff. Concrete measures such as the creation of a national independent board to oversee the day-to-day operation of the NHS would help depoliticise it.
"There also needs to be much more engagement with the public and staff about the way services are delivered at a local level. The BMA will continue to push for progress on these issues.
"Moreover, recent events, and recent government policies, mean that the founding principles of the NHS are increasingly vulnerable. The controversy over top-up payments is evidence that the NHS is not fully comprehensive, and a wider, public debate on the range of services that it can and cannot provide, is long overdue.
"The government also says the NHS is committed to providing best value for taxpayers' money. Yet many of its health policies have wasted public money, particularly those which have locked the NHS into long-term contracts with commercial providers but failed to deliver on expected activity."