Today’s columnist, Dr Mary Wren: Your rights and responsibilities

UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren.  Dr Mary Wren has worked in Sheffield for 20 years. She offers advice on health issues every Saturday.
UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren. Dr Mary Wren has worked in Sheffield for 20 years. She offers advice on health issues every Saturday.
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In the UK, we have a number of rights as patients.

These are set out in the NHS constitution and include things like the right to access NHS services, the right to be treated with a professional standard of care, by appropriately qualified and experienced staff and the right to drugs and treatments recommended by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) for use in the NHS, if your doctor says they are clinically appropriate for you.

You also have the right to have recommended vaccinations, the right to choose a GP practice and the right to make informed choices about your care within the NHS.

You have the right to complain and have your complaint investigated and know the outcome.

With all rights come responsibilities. In every relationship we have rights and responsibilities. If we all tend to focus on our rights, then relationships will break down and organisations and cultures fall apart.

If we start to think about our responsibilities then cultures and communities benefit and thrive.

I think it can be easy, especially with our culture of blame in the media and health, to forget about personal responsibility.

The NHS constitution says we should each take some personal responsibility for our own and our family’s good health and well-being.

We should treat NHS staff and other patients with respect and recognise that causing a nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises could result in a prosecution.

We should keep appointments or cancel in reasonable time, follow through courses of treatment which we have agreed to, and take part in public health programmes such as vaccination.

Other areas of responsibility include eating healthily, exercising, limiting alcohol consumption or sugary food.

If we eat far too much of the wrong thing and develop diabetes, with all its complications and cost to the NHS, I think we have a responsibility to change what we do as well as a right to appropriate treatment.

Or if we develop lung disease because we smoke too much, we have a responsibility to change what we can and stop smoking, as well as having a right to inhalers or antibiotics as needed.

Sometimes the real key to health starts with ourselves, being willing to recognise where we have made mistakes and seek help to change what we can.

Then it will not be just us who benefits, but our communities and health service as well.