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Cut the crap: an alternative glossary of NHS jargon

Cut the crap: an alternative glossary of NHS jargon
By Léa Legraien Reporter
2 August 2018

If you’ve ever felt perplexed by NHS parlance, we’re here to help. Léa Legraien unravels healthcare’s most hideous buzzwords

As if understanding the way our healthcare system works isn’t complicated and taxing enough, deciphering NHS jargon only makes things worse.

Person-centred care, light-touch assessment and broker are just a few examples of the numerous health and social care terms that could make people lose their minds.

Here at Healthcare Leader, we’ve decided it’s time to stop jargonising the way we talk about health and start cutting the crap. We took five NHS buzzwords and tried to squeeze some sense out of them.

Key to irritation

Useful idea, stupid name

Just annoying

Please stop using

1 Telecare

DEFINITION To avoid any confusion, telecare differs from telemedicine, telehealth and telecoaching. Great, more jargon to analyse now.

Telecare refers to technology that allows vulnerable and elderly people to be independent and remain in their own home by connecting them to a monitoring centre with trained operators or to relatives who can make sure they are safe.

The telecoms equipment includes alarms that can be worn around the neck, automatic pill dispensers and sensors that switch off the electricity or gas mains if danger is detected.

CUTTING THE CRAP Although these systems are quite helpful, the word telecare does sound as if taken from the novel 1984. What about using care monitors instead?.

IS IT USEFUL? The concept, yes, the word, no.



DEFINITION In a healthcare context, MASH does not refer to the London steak house or the US war comedy drama, but to a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub.

It brings together a team of multi-disciplinary professionals, which can include the police, local authorities and social care staff, in the same place to deal with adults and children whose safety is at risk.

CUTTING THE CRAP A MASH assesses safety risks and decides whether or not to take action.

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you like mashed potato. Please use safeguarding team instead, thank you.


3 Real-world data

DEFINITION Last year, an article published on scientific and medical database Science Direct argued that ‘despite increasing recognition of the value of real-world data, a consensus of the definition of real-world data is lacking’.

After assessing 53 documents and 20 interviews, researchers concluded that most of the 38 definitions they identified defined real-world data as ‘data collected in a non-randomised controlled trial setting’.

However, ‘a considerable number of definitions diverged from this concept’, the article said.

According to Respiratory Futures, an organisation seed-funded by NHS England and the British Thoracic Society body, real-world data – or real-world evidence – is data obtained through studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments or interventions in daily clinical practice.

CUTTING THE CRAP Well, if researchers cannot agree on one definition, should we just stick to data?.

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you live in the real world – no offence to people from the fake world.


4 Top-up fee

DEFINITION Top-up fees relate to care homes. A resident is required to pay an additional amount of money when the care home’s costs are higher than the council can afford to finance.

These fees are only charged if the person specifically requests to be in a more expensive home.

CUTTING THE CRAP We do understand why this is called a top-up fee but do we really need three words when we can do with one?.

IS IT USEFUL? Yes, if you have an Oyster card.


5 Patient activation

DEFINITION Patient activation is a concept that describes a person who has the knowledge, skills and confidence to understand and manage their own healthcare issues and the treatment they receive.

CUTTING THE CRAP Sounds very much like a robot that scientists would render active, right?

IS IT USEFUL? We cannot say patient activation without thinking of a patient becoming operational. Can we swap it for self-management?


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