Insight into the NHS
The National Health Service was set up in 1948 to provide healthcare
for all citizens, based on need, not the ability to pay and is funded
by the taxpayer. It is made up of a wide range of health professionals,
support workers and organisations.
Department of Health
This is the Government department responsible for delivering a fast,
fair, convenient and high quality health and social care service to
the people of England. It is responsible for giving NHS Organisations,
such as hospital trusts and GP’s, the information, guidance and support
they need to deliver the Government’s policies and meet its standards
of patient care. It supports Government ministers in developing the
standards and broad working practices of the NHS and local social
services. It monitors standards and takes steps to deal with services
that are poor or failing. It also works on ways to prevent disease
and help people live longer, healthier and more independent lives.
In England and Wales, health authorities identify the health needs
of local people and make arrangements for services to be provided
by NHS trusts, primary care and other agencies, using funding provided
by the Government. In Scotland, this is carried out by health boards
and in Northern Ireland; it is the responsibility of the health and
social services boards.
Hospital trusts are found in most large towns and cities, and usually
offer a general range of services to meet most people’s needs. Some
trusts also act as regional or national centres of expertise for more
specialised care, while some are attached to universities and help
to train health professionals. Trusts can also provide services in
the community – for example through health centres, clinics or in
people’s homes. Except in the case of emergencies, hospital treatment
is arranged through your GP. This is called a referral. Appointments
and treatment are free. Together, NHS trusts employ the majority of
the NHS workforce including nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists,
midwives, health visitors and staff from the professions allied to
medicine, such as physiotherapists, radiographers, podiatrists, speech
and language therapists, counsellors, occupational therapists and
NHS walk-in centres
There are many NHS walk-in centres across the UK that offer fast access
to health advice and treatment. They are open and available to anyone
and provide a seven-day a week service. Assessments are made by an
experienced NHS nurse for minor injuries and illnesses and offer instant
health advice and information on local out-of-hours GP, dental and
The first port of call for many people when they develop a health
problem is their local doctor, also known as a general practitioner.
These doctors usually form a small practice or surgery to serve a
particular neighbourhood. GP’s are on the frontline of the NHS – the
part officially called ‘primary care’. Many other health professionals
work as part of this frontline team – nurses, health visitors, dentists,
opticians, pharmacists and a range of specialist therapists. Every
UK citizen has a right to be registered with a local GP and visits
to the surgery are free. NHS direct and NHS walk-in centres are also
part of primary care.
Primary care groups and trusts
Since 1999, GP’s have been able to join together to form ‘primary
care groups’ or ‘primary care trusts’ along with other health professionals.
This means they are given the funding to work together to plan and
commission health services for their local communities – a role previously
carried out by health authorities. It also means that decisions about
local services are made at a local level, by those best placed to
The duties of a doctor registered with the General Medical Council
Patients should always
feel that they could trust a doctor with their lives and well-being.
We as a profession have a duty to maintain a good standard of practice
and must always show respect to human life.
If you are a doctor, you
- Make the care of your
patient your first concern
- Treat every patient
with politeness and consideration.
- Respect every patient’s
dignity and privacy.
- Listen to patients and
respect their views.
- Give patients information
in a way they can easily understand.
- Respect the rights of
- Always keep the patient
involved in decisions about their care.
- Keep your professional
knowledge and skills up to date.
- Recognise the limits
of your professional competence.
- Always be honest and
- Respect and protect
- Ensure that your personal
beliefs do not prejudice your patients’ care.
- Act quickly to protect
patients from risk especially when you have reason to believe that
a colleague may not be fit to practice.
- Avoid abusing your position
as a doctor.
- Always work with your
colleagues in the ways that best serve the patients interests.
In all these matters, you
must never discriminate unfairly against your patients or working
You must always be prepared
to justify your actions