The much-discussed "NHS Constitution" has moved a step closer to reality after more than a hundred health and social care leaders met to discuss the issue at an Our NHS, Our Future Review deliberative event last week.
The meeting began with the announcement that the constitution – which the prime minister discussed in January's new year message to NHS staff – could become reality in the NHS's 60th anniversary year.
"Now we have decided to press ahead we need to grapple with some pretty difficult issues," Health Secretary Alan Johnson told attendees. "We would like your help in this."
The meeting was attended by representatives from bodies including the British Medical Association, the Trades Union Congress, the British Heart Foundation, Age Concern and the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Those present discussed the five main areas the government would like the constitution to encompass: "purpose, principle, values, rights and responsibilities".
This was followed by a discussion by a panel made up of Mr Johnson, NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson, Lord Darzi (pictured) and health minister Ivan Lewis.
Mr Nicholson said: "This is part of a broader set of work – the NHS Next Stage Review. The whole point is to help patients access high-quality services and get more help in their care, including how to stave off ill-health in the first place. That was the starting point for talk about a constitution."
In his online blog, Lord Darzi wrote yesterday (4 March): "Our vision of a constitution is one that secures fundamental values, and creates a framework for accountability at national and local level.
"It would include open process for arbitration and decision-making, set out rights of engagement for patients and strengthen integration of care and opportunities for partnership."
Mr Nicholson added: "This constitution needs to be built on engagement, discussion and consultation. We need to set out as clearly as we can what are the rights and responsibilities of all involved in the NHS and with the NHS."