The National Health Service (NHS) is subject to a range of duties, legislation and guidelines on how it operates. It was created out of the belief that healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. It remains one of the most comprehensive, effective and efficient healthcare systems in the world.  When it was launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948, it was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

These three principles have guided the development of the NHS and remain at its core.

Aneurin Bevan (second left) visits Park hospital, Davyhulme, Manchester – ‘birthplace of the NHS’ – on 5 July 1948. Photograph: Trafford Healthcare NHS/PA

Aneurin Bevan (second left) visits Park hospital, Davyhulme, Manchester – ‘birthplace of the NHS’ – on 5 July 1948. Photograph: Trafford Healthcare NHS/PA

Three nurses early years of the NHS.

Three nurses early years of the NHS.

NHS Constitution

The NHS Constitution brings together in one place details of what staff, patients and the public can expect from the service. It also explains what you can do to help support the NHS, help it work effectively, and help ensure that resources are used responsibly. The constitution is underpinned by existing legislation, regulatory requirements and professional standards.

NHS Constitution

NHS Constitution EasyRead

NHS Constitution Large Print

NHS Constitution Audio

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 concerns all of us in the country. It simplified and harmonised previous equality legislation and provides a framework for removing discrimination in UK society. It places duties on public sector organisations such as the NHS to demonstrate how they are promoting and delivering equality to their service users, staff and local community. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a range of useful resources.

Human Rights Act 1998

Fully enacted by 2000, the Human Rights Act ensures that a minimum standard of living can be guaranteed for all those residing in the UK. This Act localises the rights written in the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), and all UK laws must be compatible with the Act.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Act provides people who are transitioning from their birth gender to their acquired gender full legal recognition and safeguards to protect their privacy. The Act is under consultation and reform is pending.

Health and Social Care Act 2012

The NHS changed with Health and Social Care Act 2012 bringing in the most wide-ranging reforms of the NHS since it was founded in 1948. The UK government has produced a range of useful resources on the Act.

Professional Codes of Conduct

The values of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights have been enshrined into the ethos and conduct of all health professionals and promotes delivering care that meets the patient’s individual needs. For further information on the codes of conduct for registered professionals, please click on the links below.