The UK Government has proposed significant updates to the NHS Constitution for England, allowing patients to request intimate care from someone of the same biological sex, where reasonably possible. 

The proposed changes will further allow the placement of transgender patients in single-room accommodation as part of the Equality Act 2010, wherever appropriate. 

According to the government, the latest updates are designed to make clear what patients can expect from NHS services, as biological sex matters and illnesses impacting men and women are different and should be communicated clearly and accurately. 

The consultation, which marks the first stage of reviewing the constitution, will run for eight weeks and is open to clinicians, the public, medical professionals and other stakeholders.  

The NHS Constitution for England, last revised in 2015, outlines the rights and responsibilities of patients and staff.  

Other additional updates proposed by the government include a commitment to patient safety by allowing family-initiated rapid reviews of care and ensuring person-centred physical and mental health care. 

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The updates also intend to understand community needs better, reduce disparities in healthcare access and outcomes, and strengthen patient responsibilities regarding appointments.  

It aims to safeguard NHS’ principles and values while empowering staff members to support the enhancement of care services by establishing legal rights for both patients and staff when choosing NHS services. 

The constitution’s revisions also support the government’s mission to help individuals remain in or return to work, reflecting the impact of employment on health and wellbeing. 

The latest consultation was a result of the Martha Mills case, a 13-year-old girl who died of sepsis at King’s College Hospital in 2021. 

The case underscored the importance of the proposed right for rapid review from the outside care team if a patient’s condition worsens.  

Based on Martha’s case, NHS is also rolling out Martha’s Rule across NHS hospitals in England.  

UK Women’s Health Strategy Minister Maria Caulfield said: “Updating the NHS Constitution is crucial to ensuring principles underpinning our NHS work for everyone.   

“This is about putting patients first, giving them the dignity and respect that they deserve when they are at their most vulnerable. Our plans include accommodating requests for same-sex intimate care and respecting single-sex wards.”