The letters ‘NHS’ and the NHS logo (lozenge) are protected by law. They are UK trade marks owned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. The owner of the trade marks has ultimate and absolute discretion as to whether to permit or prohibit use.
In addition, the NHS logo is also protected by copyright, and the letters are protected by the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014.
Suppliers of goods and services to the NHS
Suppliers of goods and services to the NHS cannot use the NHS logo or a local NHS organisational logo. This is to protect the NHS from being seen as:
- the source of information that has not originated from the NHS, or
- formally endorsing suppliers’ goods and services
If suppliers want to promote the fact they have supplied goods or services to the NHS then they must explain that in plain text and in a descriptive manner. They should use a colour other than blue for text, as people strongly associate it with the NHS. Suppliers must not use terminology which implies further involvement, such as approved, supported, endorsed, authorised or certified.
Suppliers may use a photographic image of the goods they have supplied the NHS. Suppliers must have the permission of the relevant NHS organisation if the photograph includes an organisational logo or NHS England’s national communications team where the NHS logo is used.
The only exception is for suppliers of staff identification items and other NHS-branded wares.
Suppliers of staff identification items and other NHS-branded wares
Printers and other suppliers of NHS branded items such as identity badges, lanyards, embroidered clothing and stationery items, have standing permission to use the NHS logo on such items, but need to comply with all of the criteria below. Failure to do so will be regarded as ‘unlicensed use of the logo’ and may result in legal action being taken.
- Items cannot be held in stock, but instead must be manufactured to order once commissioned by an NHS organisation or an organisation with an NHS contract to deliver health services.
- Payment must come directly from an NHS organisation or an organisation with an NHS contract to deliver health services.
- Delivery must be to an NHS organisation’s address or the address of an organisation with an NHS contract to deliver health services.
- Suppliers will need to state requirements 2 and 3 in any advertising as a condition for using the NHS logo in illustrations of example wares.
- Except for illustrations of example wares, suppliers are not permitted to use the NHS logo in their promotional material.
- Suppliers must use the NHS logo in accordance with the NHS Identity guidelines.
- Suppliers must comply with any additional instructions given to them by the NHS Identity team concerning the use of the NHS logo.