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Editorial policy

NHS Choices is committed to the highest editorial and ethical standards in the provision of all its content and related services.

The site is funded by the Department of Health. It is committed to providing objective and trustworthy information and guidance on all aspects of health and healthcare.

In all instances, we strive to ensure that content is evidence-based, in other words, that it is founded on the best scientific knowledge currently available.

The following sections set out our editorial principles, standards and processes.

 

Principles

Accuracy:
NHS Choices content will be accurate, balanced and transparent. Information given will be based on the best available scientific evidence and data sources. Where content contains conjecture or opinion, this will be clearly indicated.

Impartiality and diversity of opinion:
NHS Choices will be objective, impartial and even-handed. Where views differ and no scientific consensus can be found it will reflect all significant strands of opinion and state the uncertainty clearly.

Accountability:
NHS Choices is accountable to its users and will deal fairly with them. It will be open in admitting mistakes and encourages a culture of learning via user feedback. Its editorial processes will be transparent.

Serving the public:
NHS Choices will put its users’ interests first when sourcing and developing content. It will consult widely with relevant professional bodies, patient organisations, charities and other interest groups but serving the ordinary citizen will remain paramount.

Taste and decency:
All content on NHS Choices will be suitable for a general audience and will not include material that might reasonably be deemed offensive. Where content includes explicit sexual information it will be clearly flagged.

Privacy:
NHS Choices views its users’ privacy as paramount and, barring legal order, will not divulge any correspondence or personal information it may hold about them without their prior and explicit permission.

Funding:
NHS Choices is funded by the Department of Health. It does not carry advertising and does not accept corporate sponsorship.

Standards

Staff interests and independence
NHS Choices has a dedicated team of editors and journalists. It operates independently of the site’s marketing and commercial functions and has a clear mandate to produce accurate, balanced and transparent information.

No journalist will be asked, or is permitted, to provide favoured treatment to any partner organisation and all editorial staff must fully disclose any financial or other interests they may have in any healthcare-related companies or organisations. Such interests must be reported to the site’s Chief Editor at the time of their employment or at the point they arise thereafter.

The Chief Editor will report any potential conflict of interest to the Clinical Information Advisory Group (CIAG) which will determine what needs to be done to eliminate it. Where content is produced by outside organisations or individuals, NHS Choices requires that such agents make a similar disclosure of outside interests.

Training
All editorial staff are given professional development training to ensure editorial standards are met. Specifically, they are given training under the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme, in the area of evidence-based research and the validation and meaning of health data.

Quality assurance
The CIAG is ultimately responsible for editorial quality standards as they relate to best clinical practice. The CIAG meets regularly and is the approver of the site's editorial process.

The CIAG welcomes feedback with regard to the site’s editorial process, via the ‘Contact’ link at the top of every page on this site.

The Information Standard
NHS Choices has adopted The Information Standard to maintain and improve the information production system and the quality of information on the NHS Choices site.

Editorial process

The editorial process is described in detail in Editorial content processes (PDF, 980kb).

Phase 1 – Research
The evidence-based knowledge that informs all NHS Choices content is derived from peer-reviewed scientific research and from the direct experience of clinicians, other health professionals, patients and the wider public.

In pulling together this knowledge to provide users with a rounded and balanced package of material on a particular subject, NHS Choices requires its journalists to consult the following resources:

For peer-reviewed scientific research, they consult NHS Evidence, which has developed a system for accrediting and classifying different types of research evidence with respect to its quality.

Where knowledge of direct experience is required, they consult:

  • Practising doctors and other clinicians with direct and current experience in dealing with or treating the health issue under investigation,
  • National charities with a recognised expertise and specialist interest,
  • Patients and ordinary members of the wider public who may be directly affected by a topic or issue,
  • Patient organisations,
  • Healthtalkonline, a charity website, which is based on qualitative research into patient experiences, led by experts at the University of Oxford.

Resources used in the development of content are available on request, via the ‘Contact’ link at the top of every page on this site.

Phase 2 – Production
Once a piece of content has been researched and drafted, it is edited by a senior member of the NHS Choices editorial team. It is checked for:

  • Accuracy
  • Balance
  • Accessibility
  • Tone

Phase 3 – Clinical check and policy sign-off
There are two stages of sign-off before any single piece of content is published on the NHS Choices website.

  • First, if it contains clinical information it must be read and signed off by an appropriately qualified and experienced clinician,
  • Second, if there is a relevant policy, it must be read by a policy official, either at the Department of Health or at Public Health England, who checks it for alignment with that policy.

Phase 4 – Final editorial checks
Final content is then passed to a sub-editor who checks it for:

  • Common factual errors
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Adherence to house style
  • Overall presentation

Depending on timing and type of content, parts of Phase 3 and Phase 4 may run concurrently.

Review of content
NHS Choices’ content is reviewed systematically. All content is reviewed at least every two years.

Evidence updates to published content as well as feedback from users and stakeholders are considered on a day-by-day basis as they arrive, and content reviewed and amended immediately if necessary.

Publication dates are displayed on all content.

Behind the Headlines
Behind the Headlines provides an unbiased and evidence-based analysis of health stories that make the news. This content follows a slightly different production process.

Feedback and complaints

NHS Choices welcomes feedback on all content on the site. There are two ways to provide feedback:

  • Comments – there is the option to comment on and rate content at the foot of most content pages. You will need an NHS Choices account to comment on content and all comments are subject to our Comments policy. Note that you do not need an account to rate content or to comment on NHS services in the service provider pages.
  • Contact – you can contact us through the ‘Contact’ link at the top of every page on the site. Your feedback will go through to the NHS Choices Service Desk who will pass it on to the appropriate NHS Choices editorial team member.

Complaint process
In the event that a complaint is made about a piece of content that cannot be resolved by the NHS Choices journalist, the matter will be escalated to the Chief Editor.

Note: NHS Choices is responsible only for the content of this website and any operational issues around it. If you wish to make a complaint about an NHS organisation, contact them directly first. If you're not sure where to start check out the About NHS complaints section.

If you wish to make a complaint about our content or any operational issues, please take a look at the NHS Choices complaint process (PDF,151kb). For more detailed information see our NHS Choices complaints policy (PDF, 482kb).

Page last reviewed: 02/09/2013

Next review due: 02/09/2015