The NHS constitution has been amended to include recommendations made by Sir Robert Francis in his inquiry into the failings at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital.
This includes the duty of candour for nurses and other healthcare professionals, to ensure that potential issues with the provision of care are raised with the relevant authorities as soon as possible.
Additionally, for the first time the NHS constitution contains a commitment to give parity of esteem in the treatment of both mental and physical health. Previously, mental health services had not been given the same level of attention as the treatment of physical ailments.
Sir Robert Francis said: 'The constitution is an immensely useful tool not only for patients but for NHS staff at all levels. So I look forward to it being fully integrated into everything the NHS does.'
The amendments to the constitution are generally aimed at increasing the quality of care available to patients, with particular emphasis on improving the accountability and transparency of the health service, in light of the recommendations made in the Francis Inquiry.
Sir Robert added: 'It is important not only that everyone is familiar with the rights and responsibilities in the constitution, but that they are a reality for everyone who offers or receives healthcare.'
The constitution has also had a series of 'fundamental standards' included in the latest edition. These standards include prioritising patients, protecting patients from avoidable harm, providing assistance that patients need, and ensuring that staff comply with relevant guidance. These standards will be considered by the CQC when inspecting healthcare settings, and failure to meet the standards may result in action from the regulator.