BIHR has pioneered work on a human rights approach to healthcare. Our innovative work in this field began in partnership with the Department of Health (DH) and five NHS organisations. In 2008 we published the ‘Human Rights in Healthcare Framework’. The ethos behind the project was to take human rights out of NHS legal departments and apply them in the day to day running of NHS organisations, to help make improvements services and to people’s lives. The Framework captures some of the learning from the five NHS Trusts involved and offers practical lessons for anyone working in health and social care about how human rights is relevant to the field of health and social care, understanding the obligations NHS organisations have under the Human Rights Act, and how human rights can be used to deliver better services.

Since developing the Framework, one of the Trusts has gone on to champion this work within the NHS, with the support of BIHR. Mersey Care NHS Trust have implemented a human rights approach in various parts of their mental health and learning disability services, and have since worked with BIHR to look at how a human rights approach can improve care in an acute mental health inpatient unit. They have also supported four other NHS organisations to implement a human rights approach in different parts of their services.

Voluntary and community sector organisations are increasingly playing an important role in health and social care – both as providers of services, and as advocates and campaigners on behalf of those in need of better care. Most are working on human rights issues, such as quality of care and treatment, but relatively few are using human rights to support their work. BIHR’s Human Rights in Healthcare Project (2010-2013) was funded through the Department of Health’s grants stream to explore ways of assisting voluntary sector organisations working in or on health and social care issues to use human rights to provide and advocate for better services.

For more information about all of this work, and how other service providers can use human rights, is contained in our resource The Difference it Makes: Putting Human Rights at the Heart of Health and Social Care

BIHR built on this work through our project Delivering Compassionate Care: Connecting Human Rights to the Frontline (funded by the Department of Health). Working with seven pilot services, we explored how to put human rights at the heart of mental health and mental capacity services. For more information see our suite of resources aimed at practitioners.