Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised new rights for NHS patients in June 2009, under the draft legislative programme, Building Britain’s Future, which includes many other public reforms.
In a statement to the Commons, Mr Brown pledged that NHS patients would have “enforceable rights to high standards of care” including hospital treatment within 18 weeks, access to a cancer specialist within two weeks, and free health checks on the NHS for people aged 40-74. Mr Brown also said they would look into the possibility of new rights regarding NHS dentistry, extended access to GPs, individual health budgets for patients with long-term illnesses and the right to choose to die at home.
Mr Brown also pledged that Health Secretary Andy Burnham would bring forward proposals to strengthen the NHS’ focus on disease prevention and early intervention, to extend patient choice, and to reform early years and maternity services.
In addition, Mr Brown said ministers would consult on “far-reaching proposals for how we need to modernise our health and social care systems so that our country can meet the challenge of an ageing society”.
However, the British Medical Association claims the changes will have little impact, with the “vast majority” of patients referred to a cancer specialist already seeing one within two weeks and claiming that “further improvements will depend on an expansion in numbers of consultants”.
Further reading - An in-depth analysis of the UK pharmaceutical market, including some background information on the healthcare system and health policies, is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: United Kingdom (published March 2009)