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Guidelines

Naming principles

The naming of NHS organisations, services and partnerships is a crucial part of the NHS Identity. It is important that names are clear, logical and understandable so that patients and the public can identify and locate the different organisations, services and partnerships which make up the NHS.

These guidelines apply to names for new NHS organisations, services and partnerships and to requests to change existing names.

Existing NHS organisations, services and partnerships with names that do not follow NHS naming principles will not be required to change them. Organisations may wish to consider doing so where names are causing confusion to patients, the public and stakeholders. However, when changing your organisation’s name, you should be able to demonstrate that the benefits would justify the use of public money. Changing the name of services and partnerships may have less impact and be easier and quicker to implement.

Legal requirements

The following legislation relates to the naming of NHS Foundation Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups:

Schedule 7 of the National Health Service Act 2006 says ‘if the corporation is an NHS Foundation Trust, its name must include the words ‘NHS Foundation Trust’. View Schedule 7 legislation

The National Health Service (Clinical Commissioning Groups) Regulations 2012 set out the ‘Basic requirements as to CCG names’. View NHS (CCG) Regulations 2012

Naming principles

NHS Trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups must include the organisational descriptor NHS Trust, NHS Foundation Trust or Clinical Commissioning Group at the end of their names.

Hosted and non-statutory organisations (e.g. Commissioning Support Units) should also follow the same format and include an organisational descriptor. National NHS organisations (e.g. NHS England) do not require a descriptor.

The name of your NHS organisation, service or partnership should adhere to the following principles:

  • be clear, logical and descriptive
  • be written out in full, without the use of acronyms, abbreviations or symbols such as ‘&’ – except St for ‘Saint’ and NHS for ‘National Health Service’
  • include the letters ‘NHS’ within the written version of the name
  • contain a geographic reference, unless it is a national NHS organisation, service or partnership (e.g. NHS Improvement)
  • if it is an NHS partnership, the name should end with, or contain a term that shows that this is a partnership and not an organisation (e.g. Partnership, Alliance, Collaborative)
  • if it is an NHS service, start with a geographic reference, then a descriptor for the service (e.g. Mental Health) and typically end with the word ‘Service’, unless it is a national service (e.g. NHS 111)
  • the position of the word ‘University’ in an NHS organisation’s name should be carefully considered. ‘University’ should be placed at the start of the name or within it. When it is placed at the end of the name, the prominence of the word could give the impression of the title of a university rather than an NHS Foundation Trust or NHS Trust.

Geographic reference

The geographical reference must be either or both of the following:

  • a place, geographical feature or area which is named on a map in general circulation, or which has a name in common usage locally
  • a centre of population (such as a village, town or city), an administrative area (such as a county or other local authority area) or an electoral district (whether Parliamentary or local authority).

It may also incorporate compass references – North, East, South, West, North-East, North-West, South-East and South-West, or any of those in the ‘Northern’ (etc.) form.

NHS naming structures

The naming structures for NHS Trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS partnerships and NHS services, are shown below. If there are local circumstances where this structure creates challenges, please visit contact us for help to find a solution which is in line with the naming principles.

NHS Trusts/NHS Foundation Trusts

Geographic reference + NHS Trust/NHS Foundation Trust.

Additional descriptor/s such as Hospital, Hospitals, Ambulance Service, Mental Health, Community, Children’s, Women’s, Social Care, Healthcare, Partnership and Integrated can also be included between the geographic reference and the words NHS Trust/NHS Foundation Trust.

The words Royal, University or Teaching can only be included with the required permission.

Clinical Commissioning Groups

NHS + geographic reference + Clinical Commissioning Group

NHS partnership logo

NHS + geographic reference + partnership descriptor

NHS service logo

NHS + geographic reference + descriptor + Service

Geography issues

If you think that your NHS organisation’s name, and therefore your NHS organisational logo, would be confusing to patients because you are delivering a service outside your geographic name, you can create an NHS service logo for the service.

For further information, see the guidance on NHS service branding.

If there is no obvious geographic reference for the area covered by your NHS organisation, NHS partnership or NHS service, please visit contact us for help to find the best approach.

Changing your NHS organisation's name

Your NHS organisation’s current name may be well known and recognised. It could be time-consuming and costly to implement and communicate a new name. You should consider, and be able to demonstrate, that the benefits of changing your NHS organisation’s name justify the use of public money.

The naming of NHS organisations can be challenging due to the need to move away from previous names and to differentiate your NHS organisation from others in the area. It is important that you engage with patients, the public and NHS stakeholders to test your NHS organisation’s proposed new name to ensure that it is clear and understandable, and won’t conflict or be confused with the names of neighbouring NHS organisations.

When considering a new name, also consider the length. Names that run onto three lines can be impractical and cumbersome. If the name you are considering is over approximately six words, this will run onto three lines and you may want to consider a shorter name.

If your organisation changes its name, you will be responsible for making changes to your NHS organisational logo once your new name is approved. To assist with this, we have created a template which shows how the artwork for NHS organisational logos should be created. For further information, see the guidance on organisational logos.

Changing your NHS Trust's name

1. Check with your regional NHS England communications team that your proposed new name follows NHS naming principles.

2. Check with NHS stakeholders that your proposed new name won’t conflict or be confused with the names of neighbouring NHS organisations or services.

NHS stakeholders could include: the NHS England Regional Director, Clinical Commissioning Groups, other NHS Trusts/Foundation Trusts in the area, the local authority, and the local Healthwatch organisations.

3. Engage with patients and the public to check your proposed new NHS name is clear and understandable.

4. Your NHS Trust board must then email the Department of Health at the address below:

  • giving the reasons for changing your NHS Trust name
  • explaining how you have engaged with patients and the public regarding the name change
  • confirming that the NHS stakeholders listed above support your proposed new NHS Trust name

Rachel Skingle
Acute Care and Policy Team
Email: rachel.skingle@dhsc.gov.uk

5. If agreed, the Department of Health will draft the change to your NHS Trust’s Establishment Order, via an Amendment Order, for your NHS Trust board to approve.

If an NHS Trust wishes to change its name as part of its application for Foundation Trust status, the name change would be effective on the grant of Foundation Trust status.

6. The Amendment Order then has to be approved and signed by a Minister.

This process takes a minimum of two months from the date the Department of Health receives all the information required in step 4 of this process.

7. Inform your key stakeholders as soon as possible of your new name so they can update their records including:

  • Care Quality Commission
  • your regional team contact at NHS Improvement (in addition to updating its records, NHS Improvement would also update the NHS Foundation Trust directory)
  • NHS England
  • NHS Digital
  • your local MP(s)
  • local authority and local Healthwatch organisation(s).

Changing your NHS Foundation Trust's name

1. Although NHS Foundation Trusts have independent status within the NHS, as providers of NHS services commissioned under the NHS Standard Contract they are required to adhere to the NHS Identity guidelines. Therefore, check with your regional NHS England communications team that your proposed name follows NHS naming principles.

2. Check with NHS stakeholders that your proposed new name won’t conflict or be confused with the names of neighbouring NHS organisations or services.

NHS stakeholders could include: the NHS England Regional Director, Clinical Commissioning Groups, other NHS Trusts/Foundation Trusts in the area, the local authority, and the local Healthwatch organisations.

3. Engage with your Foundation Trust members and wider patients and the public to check your proposed new NHS name is clear and understandable.

4. Changes to your NHS Foundation Trust name require an amendment to your NHS Foundation Trust’s constitution which needs to be approved by your Council of Governors and your Board of Directors.

5. Inform your key stakeholders as soon as possible of your new name so they can update their records including:

  • Care Quality Commission
  • your regional team contact at NHS Improvement (in addition to updating its records, NHS Improvement would also update the NHS Foundation Trust directory)
  • NHS England
  • NHS Digital
  • your local MP(s)
  • local authority and local Healthwatch organisation(s).

Changing your Clinical Commissioning Group's name

If a Clinical Commissioning Group wants to change its name it requires a change to its constitution. NHS England has published guidance on the procedure for Clinical Commissioning Groups to apply for a constitution change. View guidance on applying for constitution change, merger or dissolution.

Naming principles for digital applications

Websites

The url for websites should be clear and as comprehensible as possible. However, due to the preference for short url addresses, acronyms and abbreviations can be used for long names.

Mobile and native apps

For mobile or native apps, if the information/content relates to a particular region or audience, it is important to make this clear. The geographic region, or a clear and descriptive name for the app, needs to appear on the app icon so that users understand the purpose and use of the app. This information should also be clear in the app description.

App icon example for Stoke A&E Wait Times.

Social media accounts

Your profile/account name and username are vitally important in clarifying the account owner. They should be as descriptive as possible. Your profile/account name should include the full name of the organisation, service or partnership, or as much of the full name as possible. Other phrases are allowed if there is a strong rationale. These, and any abbreviations used, should make sense and enable the user to recognise the organisation.

See social media examples.