The importance of our identity
The NHS Identity is vitally important, it affects how people think and feel about our NHS. Largely our views of the NHS are shaped by the day to day role it plays in our lives – treating illness and promoting health. But our communications also play an important part in defining who we are.
The single NHS Identity (the lozenge and NHS logotype) was introduced in 1999 to unify the NHS and portray the service as a single, consistent entity in England. Subsequently, the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have developed their own dedicated identities.
It is extremely important that the NHS Identity is consistently and clearly applied, because it acts as a signpost, helping patients and the public to identify NHS organisations and services. The NHS logo is seen as a symbol for quality and accountability in healthcare.
The NHS is a source of great national pride, and the identity evokes high levels of trust and reassurance amongst patients and the public. It is the visual representation of the values and purpose of the NHS and conveys the national service, accessible and free to all. Therefore, it is critical that the identity is applied correctly across all NHS services, to capitalise on that goodwill and continue to build the public’s confidence in the NHS.
Policy and guidelines
The NHS Identity in England has been managed by the Department of Health using various sets of guidelines. There have been a number of changes to the way NHS services are provided, developments in digital communications and a growing number of NHS organisations developing services to generate additional income. These changes meant that the NHS Identity guidelines were out of date and increasingly inconsistent, and therefore a thorough review has been undertaken. This has been led by NHS England, who took over responsibility for managing and developing the NHS Identity in England, on behalf of the Department of Health in January 2015.
The aim of the review was to develop a new NHS Identity policy and updated technical guidelines, which reflect the needs of patients, the public and users of the NHS Identity both now and for the future. To achieve this there has been extensive public/patient and stakeholder research and engagement.
One thousand interviews and 28 focus groups with patients and the public have identified that they expect and want to see the NHS Identity consistently applied. It reassures them that they can rely on the quality of service being provided – “It’s NHS – you know you can trust it”. However, we are not currently achieving that consistency across the NHS. Patients and the public are seeing the NHS Identity in a range of diverse and inconsistent styles – or in some cases they are not even seeing the NHS Identity at all. This is creating confusion, and concern.
Along with public engagement, interviews have also taken place with over 180 stakeholders and over 100 NHS communications professionals have participated in nine workshops held across England. Their feedback also supports the need to protect the NHS Identity and make sure there is consistent, appropriate and cost-effective usage by both the NHS and its providers.
All of the research findings have helped to inform, rigorously test and refine the new NHS Identity Policy and updated guidelines.
The new NHS Identity Policy and updated technical guidelines have been approved by the Brand Board, chaired by the Department of Health, and by the Secretary of State for Health.
We recently live tested a beta version of the new NHS Identity Policy and updated guidelines website. The site is currently password protected whilst we carry out some further work before we formally publish it. Once the new site is fully live we will link to it from this page.
The new NHS Identity Policy is mandatory for NHS organisations and providers commissioned under the NHS Standard Contract. It sets the framework to achieve the consistent application of the NHS Identity that patients and the public want and expect to see from the NHS as a single, national, unified health service. It also protects the NHS trade mark against misuse. The bulleted list below gives an overview of some of the key areas in the new policy:
- Colour palette – the number of colours has expanded, however the proportion in which they can be used will change to ensure that white and NHS Blue are the dominant colours.
- Format for NHS logos – a new single consistent format for all NHS logos is being introduced. New logo packs will be issued when the new NHS Identity Policy and technical guidelines are launched.
- Logo positioning – will continue to be top right for offline communications, but there will be other positioning options for digital channels.
- Websites – the top bar of a website should be kept clear so that nothing detracts from the NHS logo or competes with it.
- Graphic devices/images and straplines – are allowed as secondary elements enabling NHS organisations to differentiate themselves from one another, but not from the NHS.
- Alternative organisational logos – these aren’t allowed under the current guidelines and this will be enforced more strongly under the new policy.
- Typeface/font – will be Arial and Frutiger.
- Primary Care – use of the NHS Identity is still voluntary for all primary care contractors providing NHS services. However we are encouraging GPs, pharmacies, dentist and opticians to use the NHS logo with a supporting statement explaining they are a provider of NHS services.
Applying the new policy
The updated technical guidelines provide comprehensive and detailed advice on how to apply the NHS Identity Policy in practice. Following user feedback on the existing guidelines, the new site will feature a wide range of practical, visual examples which show how to apply the identity across different materials and channels – printed materials, websites, social media, apps, signage, vehicle livery etc.
We understand the financial constraints that all parts of the NHS are facing, and therefore want to ensure that the new NHS Identity Policy has minimal financial impact. Therefore, it will only apply to new communications and materials which are planned or started after the new policy is published, or existing ones which are updated after this date. The exception is digital communications, which are usually quicker and easier to update. These will need to comply with the new policy and technical guidelines within a year of them being introduced.
If you need advice now on how the new NHS Identity Policy and updated guidelines will apply to your organisation, service or partnership, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, detailing the guidelines you require and we’ll email you the information.