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What Does The Act Mean?


Patient Rights

The first section of the Act gives all patients the right that the health care they receive should:

  • Consider their needs;
  • Consider what would be the most beneficial to the patient, taking into account their circumstances and preferences; and
  • Encourage patients to take part in decisions about their health and wellbeing, and provide them with information and support to do so.

Patients will also have a legal right to give feedback or comments, or raise concerns or complaints about the care they have received from the NHS.

PR Pic2Healthcare Principles

People who provide NHS health care must uphold a set of Healthcare Principles when providing services. The Principles are written in a Schedule at the back of the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011.

The Schedule is a list of actions that Health Boards must take. Anyone Health Boards enter into an arrangement, agreement or contract with must also do this.

The Schedule contains the following sections:

Patient Focus - This means that patients' needs, circumstances, opinions and abilities must be taken into account when they receive healthcare. It also means that privacy and confidentiality should be respected and that patients should receive any support they need so that they can access healthcare.

Quality Care and Treatment - This means that healthcare should be based on current clinical guidelines and standards and should be provided in such a way as to avoid any unnecessary harm or injury to the patient. Healthcare providers should give patients information about all of the options available to them.

Patient Participation - This means that patients should be encouraged to take part in decisions about their health and wellbeing, that they are given any information or support that they need and that they are encouraged to treat health care staff in an appropriate way.

Communication - This means that patients should be communicated with in a way that they can understand and health care staff should make sure that the patient has understood the information given.

Patient Feedback - This means that any feedback, comments, concerns or complaints should be dealt with according to the NHS complaints procedure.

Waste of Resources - This means that health care staff and patients should make sure that resources are used as efficiently as possible.

Action to deliver the rights and principles should be proportionate and appropriate to the circumstances and should balance the rights of individual patients with the effects on the rights of other patients. It should also take into account resources available and the responsibility of the Health Board to use resources efficiently and effectively.

Treatment Time Guarantee

The treatment time guarantee is a guarantee that certain groups of patients will start their treatment within 12 weeks of agreeing that treatment with the relevant NHS clinician.

In secondary legislation, Ministers will set out who the treatment time guarantee will apply to. The intention is that, at the moment, this will only apply to those receiving planned treatment on an inpatient or day-case basis. However, there will be some treatments which fall into this category, but are excluded from the guarantee. These exclusions will also be detailed in secondary legislation.

It is the responsibility of Health Boards to ensure that eligible patients receive their treatment within 12 weeks. This may mean that, with the patient's consent, the Health Board has to make arrangements for a patient to be treated in another Health Board area. The Health Board must also consider the clinical needs of every patient and ensure that those with the greatest clinical need are treated as early as possible, within the 12 weeks.

If the Health Board is unable to treat a patient within 12 weeks, it must explain the reasons for this to the patient and give them details of how to make a complaint. It must also ensure that the patient receives their treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.

It is anticipated that there may be times when a patient is not treated within 12 weeks because the clinician decides, for clinical reasons, that the patient should not receive the treatment at that time. In secondary legislation, Ministers will provide details of the circumstances in which the clock may be stopped or suspended and a patient may have to wait longer than 12 weeks to receive their treatment.

Patient Feedback

Every patient has the right to give feedback or comments, or raise concerns or complaints about the healthcare they have received.

Patients, family members, members of the public and carers may also give feedback or comments, or raise concerns or complaints.

Hospitals, GP surgeries, dental practices and other health care services, such as opticians and pharmaceutical services, must have a procedure in place for handling and responding to patient feedback. They must publicise this procedure to patients and explain how it works.

When someone makes a complaint they will be told about the advice and support services that are available to help them. This includes providing contact details of the Patient Advice and Support Service.

The Bill also requires that complaints, comments, concerns and feedback are monitored in order for the information to be used to improve health services.

Patient Advice and Support Service Patient being treated in hospital

A new independent Patient Advice and Support Service will be created. It will replace the Independent Advice and Support Service currently provided by the Citizens Advice Bureaux.

The Patient Advice and Support Service will:

  • Provide information about the NHS and what it does;
  • Help patients and members of the public to know and understand their rights and responsibilities when using the NHS;
  • Help people who wish to give feedback or comments, or raise concerns or complaints on the care they have received; and
  • Tell patients about other support services, like advocacy, interpretation or translation services, which might be helpful to them.

Payments to, or in Respect of, Persons Infected with Hepatitis C as a Result of NHS Treatment

Section 28 of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 provided for a scheme to make payments to, or in respect of, those who acquired hepatitis C as a result of NHS treatment, and who did not die before 29 August 2003.

This section of the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 amends the 2005 Act, to give Scottish Ministers powers to make payments to dependents of people who acquired hepatitis C as a result of NHS treatment, but died before 29 August 2003.

Protections and Limitations

The Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 does not undermine the importance of the exercise of clinical judgement, effective and efficient use of the NHS and its resources (for example, funding) or any other legislation or rule of law.

The rights set out in the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 are not enforceable by legal action; this means that patients or their representatives would not be able to seek redress through the legal system if they considered that their rights as set out in the Act had not been met.

This does not mean, though, that someone's rights under any other legislation or rule of law are affected, for example there will still be a right to claim damages in the case of medical negligence.


This section defines some words that are used in the Act.

Orders, Regulations and Directions

The Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 will be supported by subordinate legislation - these are types of legal documents. These include orders, regulations and directions. Subordinate legislation will be used to put the Act into practice. For example, directions are issued by Scottish Ministers to direct Health Boards as to what they must do.


Different parts of the Act can come into force at different times. Scottish Ministers will decide when the various parts of the Act will commence.

* This plain English summary was produced in March 2011 and applies to the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 as passed. This summary does not carry any legal status.