Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. More about the merger.

A new standard for creating health content

Sara Wilcox, senior content designer and Joe Freeman, social and digital media lead, both with NHS.UK, introduce the new ‘Standard for creating health content’ and explain work with partners, including YouTube, to put it into practice.

When content is clear, accurate, evidence-based, up to date and easy to use, it helps people self care or know when and where to get the help and care they need. Good content can save lives.

Screenshot of new health content standard at

As the organisation that manages the NHS website, we've learnt a lot about what makes good health content. We have long-standing processes around how to write for digital NHS services and we've got experience gained from testing all sorts of content.

We've published guidance for our content creators in the content style guide in the NHS digital service manual. Our style guide helps us make things clear and consistent across all our services. It's used by people across the NHS and beyond to design trusted, user-centred content.

But we want to do more to help the NHS and indeed any organisation that produces health content - be that on a website, in print, on social media or in videos.

We needed a new standard

Some of you will remember the Information Standard scheme that NHS England ran some years ago. It was followed by a lot of organisations in the health and charity sector, with an assessment and certification scheme, but this has now closed, We needed a new standard that reflected our changing best practice as well as the experience of other organisations that produce high quality health content.

Working with NHS England and building on the old standard, we've published a new standard that outlines essential requirements and best practice guidance for creating high quality content. It's designed for any organisation that produces health and care information. Organisations will self-certify against it.

The standard for creating health content has 6 principles. These are:

1.  Design a clear process for creating content and follow it

2.  Use relevant, up to date and recognised clinical evidence

3.  Comply with relevant laws and regulation

4.  Focus on user needs 

5.  Make your content easy to use

6.  Make your content inclusive and accessible

We worked with colleagues from a wide range of NHS and other organisations that produce health content including the Patient Information Forum and they have helped us to define and refine the standard and make it clear and useful. We also worked with our own community of content designers and clinicians to make sure it's in line with the latest processes and practices.

In particular, the new standard:

  • reflects changing media, such as multimedia and social media and the move from print to digital
  • emphasises user needs, inclusion and accessibility
  • reads easily, in plain English

Putting the standard into practice

One of the first public uses of the content standard is an NHS partnership with YouTube, set up to help people find trusted, authoritative health content on their platform.

NHS England is encouraging NHS organisations to complete a self-certification process against the standard (Google form).

YouTube will then consider adding an information panel under their videos to show that they are produced by a credible NHS organisation. As a starting point, this only applies to NHS organisations.


YouTube has also added a health content shelf to highlight videos from credible health sources in search results when people search for specific health topics. The shelf may include a mix of content from self-certified NHS sources and authoritative videos from other countries or regions in the search language.


Together these 2 features are designed to help people more easily navigate and evaluate credible health information.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) reviewed the NHS health content standard and YouTube's initiative and concluded that this approach helps give a solid basis for determining the authoritativeness of health sources on social media platforms.

This is the first step for us in using the content standard to assure health content at some scale, but there is more to come.

Next steps

The standard will evolve over time as user needs, technologies and platforms change and as we get feedback from people using it. But we're confident it will help improve and maintain the quality of health content produced by the NHS and other organisations.

We welcome feedback and about how you use the standard in practice in your organisation. You can comment on or contribute through our GitHub issue for the standard or by emailing the service manual team at service.manual@nhs,net.

Related subjects

How do we decide which words to use on the NHS website? Sara Wilcox, content designer with NHS.UK’s standards team, explains.
NHS Digital Product manager James Lumgair talks about how the NHS website is getting trusted, accurate health information in front of more users than ever before through 'knowledge panels' on Google search result pages.


Last edited: 19 August 2022 1:56 pm