The letters ‘NHS’ and the NHS logo are protected by law. They are UK trade marks owned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in England and may not be produced without permission from the Department of Health and Social Care.
In addition, the Secretary of State owns the copyright in the NHS logo and reproduction without permission is similarly prohibited.
The term “NHS” is also protected by the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014 and no company can be incorporated with the letters without the express permission of the Department of Health and Social Care.
Therefore, the NHS letters and NHS logo cannot be used as part of the corporate identity or domain name of a non-NHS organisation or their strapline, or as part of the name, logo or domain name of a particular initiative, without authorisation from the Department of Health and Social Care on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Only in exceptional circumstances would authorisation be granted.
NHS owned apps
The following guidelines apply to apps commissioned and owned by the NHS. Any third party app developers should follow the guidance relating to third party apps further down this page.
To save space, the app name should not start with the letters NHS, as the NHS logo should feature in the app icon and within the app. The name should clearly describe what the app is for within the character limit of the device and/or operating system.
However, the name of the app in the app store should start with the letters NHS as the NHS logo may not be visible, and it should clearly describe what the app is for. The app store name should be consistent with the home screen name with the exception that it will begin with NHS.
If the app relates to a particular geographic region or audience, this must be made clear in the app store name. App stores show additional screen visuals to provide extra context and give the user more information about the app content. The commissioning NHS organisation or full NHS service logo should be clear and prominent in one or a combination of these screen visuals. For further guidance on this see Naming Principles.
The app’s icon must include the NHS logo to signify that it is an app developed and owned by an NHS organisation. The additional general design principles are as follows:
- Clear naming of the app is important, particularly for region specific apps
- The NHS logo should appear on a blue or white background, depending on which version of the logo is used.
- Full organisation/service logos must be used on loading/start-up/login/home screens for further clarity
Using the logo on start-up, login and home screens
Although you can use the national NHS logo on its own for app icons, your full organisational or service logo should be applied to app loading/start-up screens, login screens, the home screen or a combination of all three. The national NHS logo should not appear on its own anywhere within the app pages unless it is a national NHS app or you are representing a partnership of NHS organisations and have permission from NHS England.
Apps for a local audience
Local apps are those that are primarily commissioned by an NHS organisation and the content is aimed at a specific geographic region. Local apps must clearly state the region the app is restricted to and be clear on the purpose of the app.
Some local apps are also suitable for a national audience so these should follow the service branding guidelines.
Apps created by a stakeholder partnership of NHS and non-NHS organisations
NHS apps that have been developed in partnership with another organisation e.g. local council or integrated care system, must follow the partnership branding guidance.
As space is restricted on an app, if it’s an equal partnership, we recommend that the NHS should be the dominant brand because of the high levels of trust and reassurance associated with the NHS Identity. The supporting partners should be listed within the app.
Suppliers of online consultation tools
Suppliers of online consultation tools should follow the brand guidance below. The wider guidance relating to the NHS primary care logo only applies to NHS primary care providers that operate under a primary care contract.
Many NHS organisations now use third party apps to enable their patients to book or attend NHS appointments or request repeat prescriptions virtually. Any third party organisations that sell their digital services to NHS organisations or NHS primary care providers, but are not on an NHS Digital accredited supplier list are not permitted to use the NHS trade marks within their products or communications.
Third party suppliers of apps and digital platforms that are listed in the NHS Digital buying catalogue may use the NHS Identity in accordance with the following terms.
- The NHS primary care logo may be used only on patient facing login screens that enable patients to access an NHS service, and behind login walls that can only be accessed by NHS patients and staff.
- The app or product that contains the NHS primary care logo must be supplied only to NHS organisations or NHS primary care providers.
- The NHS primary care logo should be used at the top right where possible, and the supplier’s logo should be used at the top left following the necessary exclusion zones.
- Only the NHS primary care logo may be used. The core NHS logo and other NHS logos must not be used on any products or services owned by a third party supplier, including products or services accessed by patients. This is to avoid the risk of confusion that a third party product or service is owned by the NHS.
- The NHS trademarks, including NHS organisational logos and the NHS primary care logo must not be used within a third party app’s icon, logo, name, strapline or within the domain name of a non-NHS organisation’s core website.
- The app or digital platform should follow the third party’s branding or use a distinct style to differentiate it from NHS owned products. NHS blue should not be used. This helps to establish a greater level of transparency by making it clear to users that the app or service that they’re using is run by a third party and not the NHS.
NHS logos, including the NHS primary care logo, cannot be used on a supplier’s public facing corporate website or other materials to promote the fact that their product is used by NHS organisations. In addition, the NHS Identity cannot be used to state that the NHS is working ‘in partnership’ with a supplier.
If a third party wishes to promote the fact that their app is used by an NHS organisation then they may explain it in plain text, in a purely descriptive manner on their corporate website or in the app store description. Third parties must not use terminology which implies further involvement, such as approved, supported, accredited, endorsed, authorised, or certified.
NHS domain names
Only NHS owned websites are permitted to use an nhs.uk domain name. However, we recognise that patients expect to visit an nhs.uk site when booking an NHS appointment or contacting their GP. Therefore, the NHS patient and staff login pages for third party apps that are in the NHS Digital buying catalogue may use an nhs.uk domain.
The domain name must follow the structure. ThirdPartySupplierName.appointment.nhs.uk.
Should third party suppliers wish to use one of these domain names, they should complete the NHS Digital application form.
Suppliers integrated within the NHS App
A number of digital products have been commissioned for integration within the NHS App on a national and on a regional level.
Third party providers should follow the guidance relating to third party apps. However, if a supplier’s app or product is integrated into the core NHS App, they may use the NHS app identifier on their communications when promoting their product. Any promotional materials must be in the supplier’s visual identity, or in another style that is distinct from the NHS Identity. NHS blue should not be used. Whilst images of the NHS app may be used, the NHS logo or another NHS organisational logo may not be used on any promotional materials, other than within the app identifier. The NHS app identifier may be used at the bottom right of materials with the text ‘available in the NHS app’
There is a range of approved promotional materials for the NHS App and the NHS COVID Pass available on the NHS Digital website.