The aim of this chapter is to explore the broader meaning and application of rights talk in connection with health from the 1970s to the early 1990s. It begins by considering the various ways in which the language of rights was used in the context of health. The chapter then moves on to consider the application of such language, through attempts to introduce a Rights of Patients Bill. A selection of patient’s rights guides and charters are also analysed, and the chapter suggests that it was unclear whether these were addressed to the individual patient, or all patients. A more collective understanding of patients’ rights was exhibited by organisations such as the Community Rights Project, which aimed to enhance democracy and accountability within the NHS through the language of rights. The establishment of Department of Health’s The Patient’s Charter in 1991, however, undermined such collective conceptualisations of rights. Addressed to the individual patient rather than all patients, The Patient’s Charter was indicative not only of an individualised approach to patients’ rights, but of a wider shift in the conceptualisation of the patient as consumer and who could speak for this figure.
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