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 and may not be produced without permission.
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 of an organisation or their strapline, or as part of the name or logo 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.
For enquiries, please visit the contact us page.
All NHS organisations and hosted or non-statutory NHS organisations must use the NHS Identity and do so in accordance with the policy and guidelines, for example:
- National NHS organisations
- NHS Integrated Care Boards Clinical Commissioning Groups
- NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts
- Hosted or non-statutory NHS organisations (e.g. Commissioning Support Units, Clinical Senates, Strategic Clinical Networks).
The following non-NHS organisations can use the NHS Identity, but must follow the policy and guidelines:
Third party healthcare providers
Third party providers must apply the NHS Identity to information relating to the NHS services they provide, and to signpost patients and the public to those services. However, they cannot use the NHS Identity on their own organisation’s corporate marketing, communications and promotional activity.
Primary care contractors
Primary care contractors (GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacies) are not contractually required to use the NHS primary care logo, but they are encouraged to do so to raise awareness of the NHS services they provide and to signpost patients and the public to them. The exception is pharmacies, which are required to include the NHS logo in their practice leaflets.
Primary care contractors cannot use the NHS primary care logo to cross sell or up sell the other private i.e. non-NHS funded, products and services they provide.
Contractors who are commissioned under a primary care contract should follow the guidelines for how to apply the primary care logo.
Contractors commissioned under the NHS Standard Contract should follow the guidelines for third party providers of NHS services.
Health campaigns partners
When the public sees the NHS logo applied to health campaigns, they perceive there to be some degree of NHS involvement. Therefore, at a national level, non-NHS organisations can only use the NHS Identity on their campaigns if they have been given permission by NHS England’s national communications team. Similarly, local non-NHS organisations can only use the NHS Identity on their campaigns if they have been given permission by the relevant local NHS organisation. They will be able to advise on whether it is appropriate to use the NHS organisation’s logo or the stand-alone NHS logo on the campaign.
The criteria for deciding whether to include the NHS logo on a campaign will include the appropriateness of the subject matter and whether the campaign supports the principles and values underpinning the NHS Identity.
Suppliers of staff identification items and other NHS-branded wares
Printers and other suppliers of NHS branded items such as identity badges, lanyards, and embroidered clothing and stationery items, have standing permission to use the NHS logo on such items, but need to comply with all the criteria set out in the guidelines.
Use of the NHS letters only
Only a very limited number of non-NHS organisations are permitted to use the NHS letters as part of their corporate identity, strapline, or as part of the name or logo of a particular initiative. A range of factors will be looked at when considering applications. These will vary depending on the nature of the organisation, but the factors considered include:
- Does the organisation’s activities support the NHS values?
- Is the organisation only involved in NHS related activities?
- Is the organisation non-profit making?
- Are the NHS letters being used descriptively – would the letters help people understand the organisation’s role or remit or would they potentially confuse people that this is an official NHS organisation or endorsed by the NHS?
- Does it have the support, sponsorship or involvement of a national NHS organisation?
- Does the organisation operate on a national basis?
In the past, a small number of membership organisations have been officially granted permission to use the NHS letters (e.g. NHS Confederation, NHS Providers). These are nationally recognised bodies working with, and on behalf of, their NHS members, but are not statutory NHS organisations. Whilst they are allowed to use the NHS letters in their name, it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to use the NHS logo.
In future, if a non-NHS organisation applies, and is given permission, to use the NHS letters in their name, they will not be allowed to follow the same naming structure as NHS organisations. This is so they don’t give the impression they are part of the NHS itself. Specifically, they couldn’t use the NHS letters as a prefix in their name (e.g. NHS Training), but they could potentially be permitted to use them in a suffix (e.g. Training for the NHS).
To request permission to use the NHS letters in your name, strapline or initiative please visit the contact us page.