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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 judged against the best available scientific evidence and sources named wherever possible. 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, 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 to review content and approves the site's editorial process.

 

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

 

Editorial process

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.

For knowledge of direct experience 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,
  • 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

Written content is then passed to a sub-editor who checks it for:

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

 

 Phase 3 - Clinical check and policy sign-off
Before any single piece of content is published on the NHS Choices website it must pass two final hurdles:

  • 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, is must be read by an official at the Department of Health who checks it for alignment with that policy.

 

Phase 4 - Review of content
NHS Choices’ content is reviewed systematically. Major content is reviewed annually, and content less susceptible to change in knowledge and evidence is reviewed at least every two years. The review process involves checking against additions to NHS Evidence and other research sources mentioned above. Publication dates are displayed on all content.

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

 

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.

Appeals procedure

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. If no resolution can be achieved, the matter will be further escalated to, first, Sir Muir Gray, NHS Chief Knowledge Officer. CIAG may then be asked to advise on the quality of evidence behind the content. Individual complaints may be escalated to the NHS Choices User Council as the complaints resolution body.

 

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Last reviewed: 24/03/2010

Next review due: 24/09/2010