Content policy

The NHS website 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 and Social Care. The content, data and services on the NHS website are commissioned by NHS England and delivered by NHS Digital.

The NHS website is committed to providing objective and trustworthy information and guidance on all aspects of health and healthcare.

The overall NHS website content policy (PDF, 321kb) covers all content, both data-driven – directories and comparative data – and editorial. The latter includes written articles, video and audio resources, interactive tools, infographics and images.

In all instances, we strive to ensure that data is accurate and clearly presented and that editorial content is evidence-based – in other words, that it is founded on the best scientific knowledge currently available.

All clinical content on the NHS website is checked and approved by an appropriately qualified and experienced clinician. Where necessary, when creating this content, we consult practising doctors and other clinicians with direct and current experience of the relevant topic

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

Principles

Accuracy

Content on the NHS website 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

The NHS website 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

The NHS website 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

The NHS website 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 the NHS website 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

The NHS website 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

The NHS website is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. It does not carry advertising and does not accept corporate sponsorship.

Standards

Staff interests and independence

The NHS website has a dedicated content team. It has a clear mandate to produce accurate, balanced and transparent information.

No member of staff will be asked, or is permitted, to provide favoured treatment to any partner organisation, and all 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 Content Director at the time of employment or at the point the interests arise thereafter.

The Content Director 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.UK 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

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

Editorial process

Research

The evidence-based knowledge that informs all NHS.UK 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, the NHS website 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.
  • healthtalk.org, 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 bottom of every page on this site.

Production

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

  • accuracy
  • balance
  • accessibility
  • tone

Clinical sign-off

Before any content containing clinical information is published on the NHS website:

  • It must be signed off by a member of the internal (NHS Digital) clinical assurance team confirming that it is accurate, clinically safe and has been developed in the light of relevant evidence.
  • It may also be read and approved by other appropriately qualified and experienced clinicians (and the internal clinical team may require that it is) but final clinical sign-off is provided by the internal clinical team.

Policy sign-off

Prior to publication, if there is a relevant policy, content must also be read by a policy official, either at the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England or NHS England, who checks it for alignment with that policy.

Final editorial checks

Final content is then checked for:

  • common factual errors
  • spelling
  • grammar
  • adherence to house style
  • overall presentation

Review of content

Editorial content on the NHS website is reviewed systematically. All editorial content is reviewed at least every 3 years, with the exception of Behind the Headlines.

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 is 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.

New content in development

We are developing various new content products that are tested with the public before they go live. We signpost to users that these are prototypes and not final products. Not all the provisions of this policy apply to content in development. Find out more about content in development.

Feedback and complaints

The NHS website welcomes feedback on all its content. There are 2 ways to provide feedback:

  • Comments – You can comment on and rate NHS health and social care services on this site. View our comments policy. You can also rate article pages using the Ratings facility at the foot of each page.
  • Contact – you can contact us using the NHS website feedback form that will be sent to our Service Desk team. The team will pass on your feedback to the appropriate editorial team member. Alternatively you can email us at nhswebsite.servicedesk@nhs.net.

Complaint process

In the event that a complaint is made about a piece of content that cannot be resolved by the NHS.UK journalist, the matter will be escalated to the site's Content Director.

Note: If you wish to make a complaint about our content or any operational issues, please email nhswebsite.complaint@nhs.net. Additionally, you can take a look at the NHS website complaint process (PDF, 192kb). For more detailed information, see the NHS website complaints policy (PDF, 1.04Mb).

Page last reviewed: 02/10/2018
Next review due: 02/10/2021