Andy Burnham announced new changes to the NHS Constitution that will give patients more rights including the right to start cancer treatment within two weeks if needed.
Other changes include free health checks for those that have a high risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Burnham also stated that he will work with the Marie Curie Cancer Care centre on developing a plan to allow those with terminal illnesses to die in their home if it is their wish.
The decision was welcomed by the Patients Association but the organization did not feel that it would make much of a difference as the rights are already part of other NHS pledges. The benefit of the new changes however may be that opposition parties will have a harder time developing opposite targets.
Burnham stated that the changes should help people get the access to healthcare that they need. For example, the average waiting time from diagnosis to treatment for cancer patients is around eight weeks when those eight weeks could make a large difference in the outcome.
He continued to state that by turning previous targets into given rights within the NHS patients will now have the power to actually demand the services they need because they will now be entitled to receive them.
Starting April 1, 2010 patients can now demand the right to surgery within an 18 week period and the right to urgent cancer referrals and free health checks within a two week period.