Marketing materials and activity

A key principle of the Independent Sector Treatment Sector programme is being able to offer patients a choice about when, where and by whom they are treated. So as a provider you will need to raise awareness of your services through marketing activity to allow patients to exercise their choice.


For the purposes of this guidance, the definition of marketing materials and activity is as set out in the Electives Services Agreement/Diagnostics Services Agreement, as stated below:

  • ‘Marketing Materials means all sales promotional, marketing or advertising materials (including websites) produced or distributed by or on behalf of the Provider in connection with the Services or which otherwise make reference to the services, the ISTC Programme or express or imply a connection between the Provider and the NHS. This includes Patient Brochures and Referring Health Services Bodies Brochures.'
  • ‘Marketing Activity means all activity in which the Provider (or any third party acting on behalf of the Provider) engages for the purpose of promoting, advertising, marketing or otherwise increasing awareness of any or all of the Services or the Facilities or encouraging Referrals (including the production, distribution, publication, broadcast or display of Marketing Materials), in each case whether directly or indirectly and whether to or amongst the public, any Healthcare Professional or Health Service Body or any other party (whether or not such purpose is the principal purpose of such activity).’

Please note: the NHS logo can only be used on materials that relate solely to an NHS service being provided. You cannot use the NHS logo for general promotional purposes, or on materials which are unrelated to the NHS services you provide.


Protecting the NHS reputation and brand

All of your marketing materials and activity must comply with the Electives Services Agreement /Diagnostics Services Agreement and the ISTC Marketing Code. These can be obtained from your local NHS representative (as defined in the diagnostics service agreement or electives service agreement).

It is essential that your marketing activity does not undermine the reputation and brand of the NHS. Please note in particular Section B of the ISTC Marketing Code:

  • Advertising and promotion must not contravene the values and brand policy of the NHS.
  • No advertising and promotion activity should be undertaken which undermines the reputation of the NHS, NHS logos or trade marks (or services supplied under those logos or trade marks) or otherwise brings the same into disrepute.
  • No advertising and promotion activity by providers of NHS services should be undertaken that contravenes the use of the NHS logo as defined by the NHS brand policy. The logo is trademarked and may not be used by providers to promote non-NHS services or products.
  • No advertising and promotion activity should be undertaken which undermines the reputation of any individual providers, clinicians, or other health professionals or otherwise brings the same into disrepute.


General principles for branding of marketing materials

Where you are specifically marketing your NHS services, you must co-brand your marketing materials with the NHS logo and your provider logo.

Please note: in line with the Electives Services Agreement/Diagnostics Service Agreement, marketing activity promoting your NHS services must not include information or materials relating to private healthcare services. It should also not make reference to any product or service offered by you as a provider, or a third party.

Remember: you cannot use the NHS logo on any materials which are not directly related to the provision of your NHS services. 

For all marketing materials that are co-branded with the NHS logo, you must use the NHS typefaces and colour palette.

Your marketing materials must also support the NHS brand values and communication principles.


Printed materials

You should co-brand your printed materials with both the NHS logo and your provider logo. This rule extends to your:

  • patient information materials;
  • posters;
  • leaflets;
  • Patient Brochures; and
  • Referring Health Services Bodies Brochures.

An exception to the above is where you have existing patient information that does not carry the NHS logo. You can continue to use this, provided that it is made clear to the patient that the existing information is being given to them as part of their NHS treatment.

For example, if you are sending information in the post, you can use non-NHS branded leaflets so long as they are distributed as part of a package. This package should include materials that are correctly co-branded with the NHS logo, such as a co-branded covering letter or your co-branded patient brochure.

ISTC printed materials cover example


If you are promoting your services from your own provider website, you must use a dedicated page or microsite for your NHS services which should be branded with the NHS logo and your provider logo. Please see our main website guidelines for more information. You should position the NHS logo in the top right-hand corner of the relevant web-page(s).

If you are thinking of creating a new web presence for your NHS services, you should discuss with your local NHS representative(s) the best way of integrating this into other NHS websites.

We would prefer you not to produce a stand-alone website. However, any stand-alone websites which contain information solely about your NHS services must be branded with the NHS logo and your provider logo.


Press releases

When producing press releases that relate solely to the provision of NHS services, you can co-brand them with the NHS logo. Please always ensure that the content of all press releases is agreed with all relevant stakeholders. This could include your host Trust, local PCTs or the Department of Health.


Cinema and TV advertising

As stated in the ISTC Marketing Code, you cannot engage in cinema or television marketing or advertising without the prior consent of the Department of Health.

Should the Department agree to cinema or television advertising, the brand team will advise on the use of the NHS brand on a case-by-case basis.



You can use the NHS logo on local sponsorship events so long as:

  • the activity has been agreed with the Local NHS Representative(s); and
  • the NHS logo is always used together with the name of the centre or local service to make it clear that the service is sponsoring the initiative, not the national NHS.

As stated in the Section J of the Marketing Code, all sponsorship must also comply with relevant NHS guidance on the subject.


Promotional items

You can apply the NHS logo to promotional items so long as it is always used together with the name of the centre or service. The idea is to make it clear that the promotional items are being offered by a particular service, not the national NHS.

Please also ensure that any promotional items are cost effective and not gimmicky, in line with the NHS communications principles.

Last updated: 16/11/10