Hospitals that fail to consult patients and their families about end-of-life treatment could face legal action under new rules.
New legal obligations in the NHS constitution will also make clear that patients have a right to expect single-sex accommodation in hospital.
Ministers say the package of reforms, which is being put out to consultation, will empower patients and ensure that their wishes come first.
Rules on involving individuals and families in treatment decisions are being strengthened after an outcry over the secretive use of the Liverpool Care Pathway.
The Pathway involves withdrawing life-saving treatment from patients who are considered to be dying – including fluids and food.
Families have complained that relatives have been put on the Pathway when they have not been dying and have spoken about fighting for treatment to be reinstated.
Under the new measures, health trusts that fail to discuss issues properly could be sued and doctors who ignore patients and their relatives face being struck off.
The coalition’s policy on single sex wards will also be included in the constitution for the first time.
Other planned changes include a new right for patients to have an acknowledgement, an explanation or apology for any mistakes and a commitment that complaints will be acknowledged in three working days and tougher rules about their handling.
Health Minister Norman Lamb said the Government was determined to protect the founding principles of the health service.
“The NHS is one of this country’s greatest achievements. This Government will always make sure it is free to all, no matter your age or the size of your bank balance,” he said.
“That’s why at the same time as we are protecting its budget, we are strengthening this constitution, which enshrines the right of everyone to have first class care, now and in the future.”
Marie Curie Cancer Care welcomed the proposed new legal right for patients to be consulted on end-of-life care decisions.
But the charity said the Government should go further and called for the next independent national audit of the Liverpool Care Pathway to be brought forward.
Imelda Redmond, director of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie, said: “The Liverpool Care Pathway has enabled thousands of people to experience dignified care in the last hours and days of life. It was developed to spread the hospice model of end of life care into hospitals and other healthcare settings.
“We have become increasingly concerned about the damaging media coverage which reports negative experiences of people in hospital and the end of life. That is why we are calling for the next independent national audit to be brought forward so that we can identify as soon at possible where these failings are taking place.
“Once this is done, an action plan must be put in place for improvements where care is below the highest standards that the public expects.”Tags: End Of Life, Hospitals, Treatment