Relationships, Rights and Responsibilities: (Re)viewing the NHS Constitution for the post-pandemic ‘new normal’

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationResearch


The NHS Constitution is a ‘mission statement’ which situates ethical principles and values at the heart of the NHS. It also identifies responsibilities for the public, patients and staff to ensure the safe and effective operation of the NHS. The Constitution is intended to ‘bind together’ the communities served by the NHS, and the importance of relationships in supporting its effective operation is emphasised.

The importance of relationships has been highlighted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in, for example, the Government’s messaging that ‘we will beat [Covid-19] together’. More broadly, the guidance to ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ and the ‘clap for our carers’ campaign, led to what we see as an expression of ‘relational solidarity’ across the nation. The pandemic has also, however, exposed systemic inequities.
In this paper, we consider the values underpinning the Constitution and explore whether those values, together with the specific rights and responsibilities the Constitution describes, can be (re)viewed through a relational lens, to develop and support a continuing ‘relational solidarity’ between all NHS stakeholders in the post-pandemic ‘new normal'. We suggest that an approach which accepts the fact, and importance, of relationality at both an individual and an organisational level, offers an appropriate context to revitalise the Constitution, to reinforce and embed the principles and values that underpin its existence, and to form the basis for reinvigorating the rights it offers to NHS stakeholders and the responsibilities it asks them to accept.
Period1 Apr 2021
Event titleSocio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference 2021
Event typeConference


  • COVID-19
  • NHS Constitution
  • Ethics
  • Values
  • Relationality
  • Rights