Inclusive language

NHS services are for everyone. They should be welcoming and impartial.

We write for and about people in a way that's inclusive and respectful. This helps us to be accurate and build trust with our users.

Disabilities and conditions

We use positive language and don't label people when talking about disabilities and conditions.

We do say things like:

  • people living with a disability, or disabled person
  • people with diabetes
  • wheelchair user

We do not say:

  • afflicted by
  • suffering from
  • victim of
  • confined to a wheelchair
  • handicapped
  • diabetic person
  • sick or diseased person

NHS digital services should be accessible to everyone who needs them. Read more about writing for accessibility in the digital service manual.

Mental health

We do not describe people as mentally ill.

We do say:

  • mental health condition
  • mental health problems

Race, ethnicity, religion and nationality

We only refer to people's heritage or religion if it's relevant to the content.

For example:


You're more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you are over 40 - or 25 for south Asian people.

Gender and sexuality

We make content gender neutral wherever possible.

We do not label people with their gender identity or sexuality. Instead we say:

  • trans woman or trans man
  • trans and non-binary people
  • lesbian woman
  • gay man
  • men who have sex with men

It's alright to use "they" to avoid "he or she" or where you need a gender-neutral pronoun.

For example:


You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms of osteoarthritis so they can confirm the diagnosis and prescribe any necessary treatment.


We do not say old age pensioner, pensioner or OAP.

We use:

  • fertilised egg: from conception to 14 days
  • embryo: from 2 to 9 weeks
  • unborn baby: from week 10 to birth
  • baby: 0 to 12 months
  • infant: under 2 years
  • toddler: 1 to 3 years
  • child: 1 to 12 years
  • teenager, or young person: 13 to 19 years (we do not say pubescent or adolescent)
  • older person: 60 to 70 years
  • elderly person: over 70 years

Updated: August 2018