Department of Health updates guidance on human rights for NHS organisations

The Department of Health (DH) in association with the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and 5 NHS Trusts have worked in conjunction to produce a framework to assist NHS organisations to develop and use human rights based approaches (HRBAs) to support their core business of planning and delivering high quality and accessible health services for all.

According to the Health Secretary, Alan Johnston, “healthcare and human rights are dependent upon each other………we cannot provide good care without respect for human rights…….It is essential that, as we move forward, we have these values at the heart of everything we do.”

The new framework document issued on 7 October 2008 “is a starting point for NHS organisations seeking to:
– put NHS values such as dignity, respect and equality into practice;
– shape services and procedures that put the human at the heart of healthcare;
– effectively support their staff and commissioned providers to fulfil their specific duties under the Human Rights Act 1998, as well as progressing Care Quality Commission standards on human rights and patient treatment;
– support and add value to their work on related duties and priorities such as: Next Stage Review; Commissioning a Patient-Led NHS; ensuring equality; Dignity in Care; delivering patient choice; providing more personalised services and ensuring that people have a stronger voice; and protecting the most vulnerable people.


The document states that “the key benefits of an HRBA include:
– It helps improve experience and outcomes for patients, service users and staff by approaching services and decisions in a person centred way
– It supports delivery of wider priorities such as the ‘Next Stage Review’ and commissioning
– It improves compliance with the Human Rights Act and reduces complaints/litigation.

The publication Human Rights in Healthcare – A Framework for Local Action (2nd Edition, October 2008), together with additional resources can be downloaded here.

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