Understanding NHS Jargon

Can’t understand NHS-speak?

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The secret of dealing with medical  jargon today is

Don’t to let them get away with it.

Now Lansley has pushed through his mega-unpopular bill, his minions can excel themselves writing even more gobble-de-gook, to ensure we can’t understand what is going on.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Dr. James Le Fanu said he would like to ban  ‘the use of those meaningless buzzwords of managerial jargon that sustain activities to no good purpose’.

So, to help understand the NHS jargon, here are some basic translations of words and phrases you may come across, when dealing with hospitals, etc .

Definitions of some NHS buzz words

best practice – what you can get away with

clinical champion  – NHS-speak for someone who is given a nice job title to make them feel important;  often backed up with a clipboard

cohort – scholars thought these were Roman soldiers, but they are now seen to be lurking in hospital corridors

Complaints office  – this has developed the art of writing three pages saying nothing to a fine art;  you are supposed to be so pleased the NHS has wasted cost of a postage stamp on you, that you subside quietly

development opportunity  – what’s given to the new Outpatient receptionist who manages to lose all your notes

dignity – patient can’t tell if curtains are drawn or not

grow – NHS-speak for increase

LINk –  Local Initiative Network.   (another of those lovely Goverment quangos, but this has some credibility).  Tasked with checking QAs (Quality Assessments) reports from local hospitals.  LINks have the power to fling these reports containing the gobble-de-gook back and ask for them to be written in plain English.

mission statement – what the Chairman’s nephew comes up with when his company manages to get a contract to spend the money that was floating around the hospital after the last budget overspend

moving forward – opposite of what happens after the hospital committee has put in ‘improvements’

NHS Choices – the appointments office whose job it is to confuse you so you are unable to make an appointment that suits you,  With any luck the appointment is so much in the future you go privately, taking you off the list and saving the NHS money.

QA – quality assessment   These are the reports hospitals now have to produce for their local LINks.  Theory is they identify quality of hospital’s service.  Actually, a test in how those who compile QAs manage to ‘overlook’ items of important to patients, such as MRSA, Mixed Wards, etc.

rolling out – new ideas to paper over the cracks

service users– another term for patients. Sounds as if we are lumped in with cars being sent for annual MOTs.  Perhaps this could explain some of our treatment

Stakeholder engagement -NHS website explains this is all about “building relationships with people who (sic) you affect through your work, or who could make an impact on your success.  It is the foundation of effective organisational responsibility, and refers to the formal management of the human dimensions of change”.

Er – don’t they mean ‘getting on with people’?

STAR-PUs – watch out if you ever see this written on your notes! Apparently  it means  ‘Specific therapeutic group age-sex prescribing units’.  No-one else knows what it means either, but it sounds nasty

Symbiotic monitoring system”  and “synbiotix database”  –  latest jargon that  fills out spaces in a report.  You don’t need to know what it means – just where to insert it

Team Player – beloved phrase of NHS.  It was explained to me that a team player backs up their ‘team’ – in other words when someone is brave enough to whistleblow on bad practices, team players stand together, support each other and ignore what’s wrong.  It’s not about the patient.   In any ‘team’ meeting about a patient they are the last person you will ever see involved.   Wonder if that was why it took so long for something to be done in Mid-Staffs?

World class –  NHS services on a par with Third world services


Extract of more meaningless phrases culled from QAs

“the prevention of VTE is a national target and is a national CQUIN” “.

and/ “planned protocolised care pathways for example using the enhanced recovery programme methods”.  Er – what?

Asking NHS staff friends if they could interpret, they were clueless.  But they replied

Medic  A : My personal horrors are “people we serve” which generally means the opposite.
“Challenging” is another which just means “more difficult”. ”

In fact, the more one thinks of words the more there is a general rule that the meaning in the NHS is the opposite of the real world e.g. “consultation” “involvement” “choice” and of course “complaints”
Cynically yours!

B (brilliant surgeon) has the last word: “The more time they have on their hands the more junk they propagate. Only people as arrogant and devoid of work can believe that everyone else has time to spare!”

P.S  Proving NHS speaks a language most of us can’t understand, our local hospital has named a Ward Marie Celeste Ward. Marie Celeste was the name of the sailing ship  found abandoned mid-Atlantic, and has been a mystery ever since Sir Conan Doyle wrote about it.  Now, the name of this Ward has been giving patients nasty turns ever since, and does rather show that those working in hospitals do speak another language.


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