PIF’s new quality mark for trustworthy health information is to open to new members following a successful pilot and consumer research which demonstrated strong support for a scheme.

Major health brands took part in the six-month pilot, which was endorsed by the Patients Association.  

Anthony Nolan, Breast Cancer Now, Bupa, Cancer Research UK, the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Macmillan Cancer Support, Mind, the Royal College of Anaesthetists, The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Talk Health and the Multiple System Atrophy Trust tested the process to ensure it was flexible enough to work across the health information sector.

During the pilot, organisations mapped their information production processes against 10 criteria, providing evidence of good practice before an on-site assessment visit. 

Pilot organisations received an action plan to implement changes within an agreed timescale.  

Sue Farrington, Chair of the Patient Information Forum, said: "PIF members in all sectors wanted a quality mark to demonstrate the information they provide is trustworthy, based on sound evidence and delivered in a way people can use and. understand.  

"Quality health information empowers people to take control of their health.  

"In an era of sophisticated fake news, we think it is vitally important for people to know at a glance whether an information producer can be trusted. Our research shows the public agree.

"We are delighted to announce we are opening the scheme to new members from 1 April following the success of the pilot."

Key criteria

The quality mark is based on 10 key criteria. 

These were developed with PIF’s 1,000-strong membership representing more than 300 cross-sector health organisations.  

Consumer research has validated the criteria. The criteria are:

  • Health information is produced using a consistent and documented process
  • Staff are trained and supported to produce high-quality information
  • Information resources meet an identified information need
  • Information is based on reliable scientific evidence
  • Citizens and patients are involved in the development and testing of health information
  • Information is written in plain English and statistics and numbers are clear and easy to understand
  • Print and digital information is easy to use and navigate
  • Users can easily provide feedback on information
  • Information is promoted to ensure it reaches those that need it
  • The impact of information is measured

Improving the quality of patient information

The pilot organisations found equal value in mapping their processes against the criteria, the assessment visit itself and the resulting action plan.

  • 100% felt the scheme helped maintain or improve internal processes and procedures
  • 90% made changes to their internal processes as a result of the assessment
  • 100% would recommend the scheme to other organisations
  • They described the assessment as informative (100%), robust (90%) and supportive (90%)

Joanne Sims, Associate Director Quality, Governance and Risk at The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals, said: “The inspection process was very straightforward, and the assessors were helpful and supportive during the assessment process. 

"It was good to know there was some flexibility around the evidence needed to provide assurance, and that the standard is adaptable to the organisation applying for the quality mark.  

"We are grateful to PIF for the opportunity to pilot the quality mark

"Going through the process has helped improve the quality of patient information provided in our Trust.”

Elena Fabbrani, Policy and Patient Information Manager, Royal College of Anaesthetists, said: "I was delighted, and somewhat daunted, when the RCoA was invited to be part of the Patient Information Forum accreditation pilot. 

"On receiving the assessment form I was encouraged that we were already doing many of the things in the standards, but as the assessment visit revealed, we were not documenting this and we did not have a written process. 

"Although this required time, writing the process for the production of patient information by the College was incredibly helpful as it forced us to think carefully about all the steps needed to ensure high quality. 

"We now have an improved and robust method for producing patient information on anaesthesia, which also ensures continuity of high standards for the future. 

"Dan and the assessment team have been really helpful throughout the process."

Member organisations that complete the action plan will be able to display a new quality mark for trustworthy information.  

A robust process

Consumer research with the general public found 90% would look for a health information quality mark. 

Evidence and the use of plain English were the criteria most valued by the public, followed by staff training and marketing of information to ensure it reaches those that need it.  

PIF has appointed Dan Wills to manage the quality mark scheme. 

Dan was previously lead assessor for NHS England’s Information Standard.

“The PIF quality mark scheme is a robust in-depth assessment process that supports members to produce high-quality patient information," said Dan. 

"The way the criteria are structured is inclusive and allows for all sizes of organisations to get involved and is designed to help develop members over a period of time.”

PIF expects the new quality mark to be available for use in April. 

It will be unveiled after further consultation and user testing.

The mark will apply to any item of information that has been put through the assessed information-production process.  

PIF is a not-for-profit organisation and the scheme will be funded by member subscription. 

The pilot scheme was made possible through funding by BUPA.

For more information about the scheme contact Dan Wills on [javascript protected email address].