The British Government first formulated the Patient Charter of Rights in 1991 as a way to set a standard for care in hospitals and clinics. The charter has been revamped twice, with the last revision coming in 1997. The charter covers such aspects of the nation’s health care system including general practice, hospital services, community services and ambulance services.
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The charter outlines that patients have the right to care on the basis of need, not on the basis of ability to pay or social status. Patients also have the right to change their general practice doctor whenever they choose to emergency care delivered by a GP or an ambulance, and referrals to other physicians and specialists when the need arises. Patients also have the right to choose whether they want to take part in care that is part of medical research. Patients have the right to their medical information, the right to bring grievances and have them resolved within four weeks, and the right to receive information on local health care services.
A GP is a general practice doctor in the UK. Under the charter, all patients have the right to be seen by a GP within two days of being referred to one by a local health authority. If the GP is not to your liking, the local health authority is required to provide you a list of alternatives within two days of your request. You have the right to know exactly what services your GP provides. You have the right to a health check (or physical) if you are seeing a GP for the first time or if you have not had one in three years. You also have the right to appropriate prescription drugs.
The charter’s hospital services covers such issues as reducing waiting times, same-sex wards, the hospital environment and discharge. If you are seeking emergency care, you can expect to be seen immediately and have your condition assessed. If you are going in for an outpatient appointment, you can expect to be seen within 30 minutes of your appointment. If you are admitted for emergency care, you can expect to have a bed within two hours. You have the right to know if you will be placed in a single-sex ward or not. You can also expect to be given a copy of the hospital’s food and nutrition policy and expect to have your valuables be kept safe while in the hospital.
This part of the charter covers caregivers that go to the patient’s home. Patients who need a home visit can expect it within two hours of the set time. You can expect to be seen within four hours if you are an urgent patient, two working days if you are not an urgent patient and by appointment, if you give the community health care service 48 hours notice. In the cases of midwives helping pregnant patients, they can expect to see a midwife when it is necessary, including 10 to 14 days after the baby’s birth, or within five working days if you have a new GP and have kids under the age of 5.
If a patient is in need of ambulance services, she can expect the ambulance to reach her location within 14 minutes of the call in an urban area, or 19 minutes in a rural area. An urban area is considered an area that has a population density of 2.5 people per acre or more.
The charter sets up a series of protocols to handle suggestions or complaints from patients. Patients can expect to have their problems heard within two days by the National Health Service. There is an expectation that the NHS will handle informal complains within one month and formal complaints within six months. Those who file a complaint should receive a progress report every month until their complaint is settled.
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