Quality marks, endorsements and awards


The Information Standard

‘The Information Standard’TIS is an NHS England certification programme for organisations that produce evidence-based health and care information for the public.

The Information Standard is for organisations whose main target audiences are in England. Individual departments or teams within organisations can gain accreditation – it doesn’t have to be the whole organisation.

Organisations or departments that adopt the Information Standard are demonstrating their commitment to trustworthy health and care information as well as providing assurances of the quality of their internal processes.

When you see The Information Standard quality mark on any materials, you can be assured that organisation has undergone a rigorous assessment of its information production process to ensure that the information it produces is clear, accurate, impartial, evidence-based and up-to-date.

Over 250 leading information producers such as NHS trusts, local authorities and charities are members of the programme.

Health on the Net Foundation’s code of conduct for medical and health websites (HONcode)

HON CodeHONcode was created by the Health on the Net Foundation to promote and improve the quality, reliability and credibility of online health and medical information for patients, medical professionals and the general public.

HONcode is a code of conduct for medical and health websites. HONcode standards help webmasters and information providers to adhere to quality information provision practices.

Certificated sites meet the eight key principles of HONcode. Websites voluntarily apply for the HONcode seal and are evaluated by an expert medical team according to the eight HON principles and associated published guidelines. An evaluation report helps health editors render content HONcode compliant and transparent.

The blue-and-red HONcode seal on subscribing sites helps users identify sources of reliable information.

HONcode is used by over 7,300 certified websites in 102 countries.

British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards

These awards, established in 1997, aim to encourage excellence in the production and dissemination of accessible, well-designed and clinically balanced patient information. The awards reinforce the BMA’s commitment to support good educational practice and acknowledge new approaches and technologies intended for the public audience.

The appraisal process and criteria used when judging entries provide useful guidance on how to produce high-quality health information. Things that are taken into account include how users and healthcare professionals have been involved in developing the resource, the evidence-base consulted and how the resource has been evaluated.

Plain English Campaign Accreditations

  • The Internet Crystal Mark – a ‘seal of excellence’ for a website that shows it reaches the Plain English Campaign’s high standards and is clear, well-designed and accessible.
  • The Crystal Mark – a ‘seal of excellence’ for general documents such as letters, brochures, leaflets that is now on more than 21,000 documents worldwide.
  • Plain English App Mark – an accreditation that tests app content and all other non-technical aspects such as functionality, design, accessibility and audience suitability
  • Approved by – an alternative to the Crystal Mark for documents that are updated regularly, such as magazines, newsletters and ever-changing manuals.
  • Plain English Book Mark – a standalone accreditation for non-fiction books, training manuals or published reference materials that are either printed or available online.
  • Honesty Mark – document that carry the Crystal Mark can also carry the Honesty Mark if you are willing to sign a document declaring that the contents are 100% accurate.


National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) endorsement

Currently being piloted 

NICE provides independent, evidence-based guidance on the most effective ways to prevent, diagnose and treat disease and ill health, and reduce health inequalities and variations.

Resources produced by other organisations may be eligible for endorsement by NICE if they are in line with NICE guidance or quality standards.

If a resource accurately reflects recommendations in NICE guidance, or statements in NICE quality standards, NICE will issue an endorsement statement making it clear to users of the resource which aspects are accurately reflected and how the resource helps to put NICE guidance or standards in place. Patient decision aids are one type of resource that may qualify for endorsement.

National Information Board endorsement for apps

Currently in development

The National Information Board is developing a way to give people access to a set of health and care digital apps that have been endorsed by the NHS (see workstream 1.2 paper ref NIB 0403 – 004 and roadmap). Developers of apps will be able to seek endorsement.

Endorsed apps, including mobile apps, web-based applications and in certain cases digital services, will be featured on NHS Choices (whose health apps library has been discontinued).

Premises – to be tested during development – are that endorsement will:

  • encourage health and care professionals to recommend the use of safe and effective digital health products
  • give patients and the general public greater confidence when selecting and using digital health products
  • set a benchmark for producing quality health and care apps.

Aims include helping people to make health and care choices that are right for them, manage their health better and deal more effectively with illness and disability, as well as promoting more efficient use of health and care systems, and personal resources.

Return to the main ‘Judging and assuring the quality of health information‘ page.