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By Newsdesk

Saturday, March 16, 2013.

Children have been denied an understanding and awareness of their rights as patients because the health service’s most important document – the NHS Constitution - is not accessible for them. The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) urges the Government to produce a child friendly version to ensure young people are able to exercise their right to high quality health care in the same way as adults.

NCB consulted children and young people and found that while they wanted to know more about their rights as patients, few of them had any awareness of the NHS Constitution – the key document where those rights are set out.

In a consultation response published recently, NCB is calling for the creation of a children’s version of the strengthened NHS Constitution, which presents patient rights specifically as they apply to children and young people, in language they can easily understand. Furthermore, the participation of children should be championed by the Constitution so they are involved in decision making across the board: from the development of the health services they use to the design of the Constitution itself.

Dr Hilary Emery, Chief Executive of NCB said: “The revision of the NHS constitution is an opportunity for a shared understanding about health. To be truly effective for children and young people and help them take responsibility for their health they need an accessible and relevant version. Producing such a version can empower them to get better health care by understanding what they should expect and how to access information held about them. If we have an NHS constitution geared toward their needs all our children will have better health outcomes and this will benefit the whole population in the long term.”

Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children said: “For disabled children and those with complex health conditions, the NHS Constitution is an essential means of holding the NHS to account. Children and young people who are cared for by a range of health, education and social care professionals need the Constitution to make clear their right to fully integrated care packages; one of the concerns consistently raised by disabled children and their families. It is critical that the NHS Constitution better represents children’s needs and that any child friendly version of the Constitution is accessible to disabled children.”

The National Children's Bureau  is a leading research and development charity working to improve the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. It works with children, for children to reduce the impact of inequalities, by influencing government policy, being the voice for 200,000 front-line professionals, and inspiring practical solutions on a range of social issues including health, education and youth justice, through its extensive research and evidence work.

The NHS Constitution contains key patient rights on issues such as consent, access to health records and involvement in decisions about individual care, which have unique implications for children and young people developing their confidence in accessing health services independently.

The coalition government’s Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

“With this Government, the founding principles of the NHS – free at the point of delivery to all, regardless of their ability to pay – will not only be supported, but reinforced. The NHS is one of this country’s greatest achievements. This government will always make sure it is free to all, no matter your age or the size of your bank balance. That’s why at the same time as we are protecting its budget, we are strengthening this Constitution, which enshrines the right of everyone to have first class care, now and in the future.”

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