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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
11 December 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.

Scaffolding, integrated care pathways and agile working 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 Taking a helicopter view

DEFINITION Sometimes, people need to step back and take a helicopter view, whether it’s in the NHS or any other organisations.

“What has a helicopter tour got to do with the healthcare system?” we hear you ask. Absolutely nothing.

Let’s see how the term can be used in a sentence: ‘The CCG lead decided to take a helicopter view of the organisation before performing a deep-dive analysis to address the burning platforms’. Well, if this doesn’t help you understand, we don’t know what will.

CUTTING THE CRAP In simpler words, taking a helicopter view denotes a situation where an individual looks at the bigger picture rather than considering the issues individually.

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you’re not afraid of heights.


2 Movable feast

DEFINITION In a religious context, a movable feast is a holiday that doesn’t take place on the same day every year. It can also refer to an activity that can be easily moved to fit into people’s schedules.

In 2014, the Welsh Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) described the internal planning arrangements for older people’s mental health services as a ‘movable feast’.

This, according to BCUHB, means that ‘responsibilities are dispersed across several management posts with no clear definition of strategic roles and tasks’.

CUTTING THE CRAP This is another set of words that doesn’t belong in the NHS dictionary. Shall we use ‘flexibility’ instead?

IS IT USEFUL? Yes, if you need to postpone lunch until next month.


3 Taking ownership

DEFINITION Who hasn’t heard of the importance of taking ownership in the workplace, especially within the NHS?

According to experts, taking ownership is about assuming full responsibility for your duties or problems, for example – owning them as opposed to passing the buck to someone else.

CUTTING THE CRAP Is this just a way of saying that problems need to be acknowledged in the first place, before they can be solved?

IS IT USEFUL? Yes, if you’re buying a house.


4 Deep dive

DEFINITION In 2016, consultancy business the Good Governance Institute published a 16-page document to define deep dive.

Following an investigation into the care provided at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public and the publication of the report by inquiry chair Sir Robert Francis in 2013, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the then national medical director of NHS England, was asked to conduct a series of ‘deep-dive reviews into other hospitals with worrying mortality rates’.

Good Governance wrote in the document that despite the regulators using the term quite widely, they failed to ‘define exactly what a deep dive is’. Great, that won’t help anyone move forward.

CUTTING THE CRAP Simply put, a deep dive is an in-depth review of a situation.

IS IT USEFUL? Might be if you can easily hold your breath.


5 Escalation bed

DEFINITION Escalation beds are usually found in hospital and acute care settings. As opposed to core beds, these are additional beds used on a temporary basis to provide extra capacity and cope with increased demand, according to NHS Providers.

CUTTING THE CRAP Wait, isn’t that what others call spare beds?

IS IT USEFUL? No, it is yet another confusing term. Please stick to spare bed. Thank you.


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