Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


What are the timescales for the introduction of the new policy and technical guidelines?

The new NHS Identity Policy has been approved by the Brand Board, chaired by the Department of Health, and by the Secretary of State.

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, which we will do as soon as we possibly can.

How long will users of the NHS Identity have to ensure all their communications are complaint with the new policy? Will there be a grace period given the financial pressures most NHS organisations are under?

One of the key principles of the  new NHS Identity Policy is ‘The use of the NHS Identity must always provide the best value for tax payers’ money’. We fully understand the financial constraints which all NHS organisations are under. Therefore, we want to ensure that the new NHS Identity Policy has minimal financial impact.

For this reason, the new policy 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 guidelines within a year of them being introduced.

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Research findings

Will you be sharing the findings from the research that was carried out?

Yes, definitely. The new NHS Identity Policy is based on research and insight and it’s important to publish this so people can understand and share the evidence. Research Works, the independent agency who carried out the research, has compiled a final research report. This draws together all the feedback from the patient and public interviews and 28 focus groups, NHS communications leads workshops and in depth interviews with almost 120 stakeholders. This will be published on the new NHS Identity website along with other helpful resources.

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What penalties or sanctions will be imposed for non-compliance of the new policy?

First of all, we hope that NHS organisations will want to follow the NHS Identity Policy and technical guidelines because:

  • They recognise the strength of the NHS Identity and the strong emotional attachment that patients and the public have to it. Our 2015 patient and public research gives clear evidence to substantiate this. There are many other large organisations who would love to have the same levels of public awareness and affection for their brands which the NHS has.
  • They appreciate that the principles set out in the NHS Identity Policy are based on feedback from patients and the public, who expect and want to see a consistent application of the NHS Identity. It reassures them that they can rely on the quality of NHS service being provided – “It’s NHS – you know you can trust it”.

Compliance with the NHS Identity Policy is through self-assessment against the latest version of the guidelines. The NHS Identity team is on hand to provide advice and guidance to help achieve compliance.

Ultimately, compliance to the NHS Identity Policy is a legal requirement. For providers of NHS services, compliance to the NHS Identity Policy and technical guidelines is a requirement of the NHS Standard Contract. Clause GC23 NHS Branding, Marketing and Promotion, 23.1 states: “The Provider must comply with the applicable Branding Guidance. In addition, where appropriate to the Services the Provider must comply with the applicable Local Authority brand guidance and guidelines”.

For all other uses of the NHS Identity, the NHS lozenge and letters are UK trademarks registered to the Secretary of State for Health and as such are protected under trademark law.

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The colour palette has changed in the new NHS Identity policy. Do you expect people to amend existing NHS websites if they use colours from what will become the old colour palette?

The number of colours in the new palette has expanded to give NHS organisations the flexibility to visually differentiate their communications from each other, but not from the NHS.  NHS Blue and white continue to be the dominant colours.  This is because the results of the public/patient research show a clear preference for an NHS Identity that is consistently presented and easily identifiable. The public see NHS Blue (Pantone 300) as synonymous with the NHS service and expect to see it as the predominant colour of NHS communications.

The following colour changes have been made:

  • NHS Light Blue (Pantone 298) replaces NHS Light Blue (Process Blue) to differentiate it more from NHS Blue (Pantone 300)
  • NHS Dark Pink (Pantone 683) replaces NHS Dark Pink (Pantone 676) to differentiate it more from NHS Dark Red (Pantone 1955)

The following new colours have been added:

  • NHS Bright Blue (Pantone 285)
  • NHS Dark Grey (Pantone 7545), NHS Mid Grey (Pantone 7544) and NHS Pale Grey (Pantone 7541)
  • NHS Pink (Pantone 675)
  • NHS Warm Yellow (Pantone 1235) and Euro Ambulance Yellow (RAL 1016 Sulphur Yellow)

The new policy only applies to new communications and materials you produce or existing ones which you are updating anyway.  There is no requirement to retrospectively change existing offline materials.

Digital channels such as websites and social media accounts, which are usually quicker and easier to update, will need to comply within one year of publication of the new policy. A year should give you sufficient time for the necessary amends to be made.

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Alternative logos are not allowed in the new policy but graphic devices/visual styles are – what is the difference between a logo and graphic device/visual style?

Your identity and logo is the NHS and that’s the identity that patients look for. For that reason, the existing identity guidelines, has a one logo policy – the NHS logo.

Our patient/public research has shown that where organisations are deviating from the NHS brand it is creating confusion and concern amongst our patients. Fragmented and inconsistent application of our NHS Identity creates a public perception of a fragmented and inconsistent service – or a service that is run by the private sector.

Graphic devices, straplines and visual styles are an excellent way for organisations to differentiate themselves amongst a number of NHS organisations. But they should not look like an alternative logo or be placed where you would expect to see a partner logo. No other logo should be used, either in place of the official corporate identity/logo or in addition to it. To qualify as being a logo, the device will include stylised typography, use of colour, words and images, and be positioned where a logo is usually expected, i.e. at the top of the page. The new online guidelines will show visual examples of best practice to help everyone understand what is, and isn’t, appropriate.

When will the new format NHS logos be issued?
NHS organisations will be able to download their new logo packs from a password protected website when the new NHS Identity Policy is published. We will email NHS organisations with details of how to access their logo pack.

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Will there be a national solution developed by local authority reps and NHS reps with regards to joint branding? This would help reduce the time wasted locally over branding wrangling!

Partnership branding is a very tricky issue for us all.   Unfortunately, there is not going to be a one size fits all solution for partnerships because they’re all so different.

However we have used the feedback gained through testing with stakeholders, including local authority colleagues and patients and the public to develop the guidance for the NHS on this, taking a pragmatic and practical approach to branding.

Where there is an equal joint partnership, the identity of both partners should be represented equally and no one brand should dominate the overall visual style. Where there is a lead partner, the identity and style of the lead partner should dominate.

Please can you advise on the branding of multi-partnership programmes where partner organisations have their own conflicting branding guidelines? In the new policy, will we be able to  create a graphic device to represent the partners involved instead of using all the different logos?

Partnerships will always be a tricky and challenging issue when it comes to branding as, in the majority of cases, either all the partners want their organisation to be represented or they want a new identity for the partnership. Both of these approaches are confusing to patients who use the services. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all solution for partnerships because they’re all so different.

The right approach will depend upon the target audience for the communications and what are the most important messages to convey. Depending upon the situation, the following approaches would apply:

NHS partnerships: If a number of NHS organisations are working in partnership, a single NHS lozenge would be used and the names of the NHS organisations are written in text outside the exclusion zone (preferably at the bottom of the communication). The visual style developed should adhere to the new NHS identity guidelines.

NHS and non-NHS partnerships: The positioning of the logos is determined by the nature of the partnership. An equal partnership is represented by all logos appearing at the top of the page. The NHS logo would ideally be placed right. But in equal partnerships, the partners should agree logo alignment.

Where an organisation is a supporting partner, this is represented by the logo being placed at the bottom of the page. If the NHS is the supporting partner, the logo would be placed bottom right.

Where there is a lead partner, this organisation’s visual style would dominate. If the lead partner is the NHS, then the NHS identity guidelines need to be followed. In an equal partnership, a ‘neutral’ visual style is used, which generally aligns to the styles of the partners involved.

You should not be creating alternative logos to represent a partnership. A graphic device and/or strapline can be developed as part of a visual style. But the device cannot be placed where it could be confused for another organisation’s logo. So you would not expect to see the graphic device at the top of the page.

In the new policy, where several CCGs work together, as a single entity, for certain programmes of work, will an alternative logo be allowed for that collaboration as well as, or instead of, the individual CCG logos?

The most important identity to use in NHS communications is the NHS logo. That has been an important principle of the existing  guidelines and something we will enforce even more strongly in the new policy. This is because our research shows that when a separate logo is used it is seen to represent a separate, private sector organisation.

You would use the NHS logo once with the CCGs involved listed outside the exclusion zone, preferably at the bottom of the page.

You will continue to be able to create a distinctive look and feel or visual style for your communications within the new NHS Identity guidelines – without creating an alternative or additional corporate identity/brand to the NHS Identity. A graphic device can be included in the overall design and style but should never be used in the position and size you would expect to find a partner logo.

If it is a formal partnership of NHS organisations, you can ask the NHS Identity team if you can create an NHS partnership logo for it. There will be details about this in the new NHS Identity online technical guidelines.

What is the solution for when the NHS lozenge (and org name) cannot be used in the right hand corner, if we are secondary organisation in the partnership, for instance?

We would expect to follow the lead partner identity guidelines for communications, for example if we are a supporting partner in a partnership the logo goes bottom right.

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Are there any plans to update the NHS photo library, as some of the images are starting to look a bit tired or overused and there are quite a few occasions where suitable images are not available?

The NHS photo library is managed by the Department of Health branding team. They are aware of the feedback on the photo library and are looking to expand the library, with the help of organisations across the health and care system. In tandem, the photo library website is also being updated to provide a better user experience. We have asked them to keep comms leads up-to-date on any developments.

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