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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
29 January 2019

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

Key to irritation

Useful idea, stupid name

Just annoying

Please stop using

1 Lift and shift

DEFINITION The term shift and lift comes from the computing world. Computer hardware company IBM defined lift and shift as ‘a migration strategy that usually uses migration tools to replicate existing IBM Cognos Series 7 applications in IBM Cognos Business Intelligence, without redesigning the application’. Thanks IBM, very helpful.

Following the appointment of a new national clinical advisor for primary care last year, NHS England said that one of the responsibilities of the role included lifting and shifting ‘successful models’ of innovation across the country.

CUTTING THE CRAP In simpler words, the action of lifting and shifting something mirrors the functions of a forklift, which moves materials from one place to another.

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you need to move a pallet. Why not use migration instead?


2 Belt and braces approach

DEFINITION Belts and braces can be quite literal: a Google Images search will, for example, mostly show you pictures of belt and braces, designed to hold someone’s trousers up.

But add the word ‘approach’ to the two words and the metaphor takes on a whole new meaning. It becomes a piece of jargon describing an action that is done with caution by using two different means to achieve a set goal.

CUTTING THE CRAP Although we agree that it is important to be careful when implementing a change or else, we believe that people using the metaphor just want to sound fancy.

IS IT USEFUL? Yes, if your trousers are too big. Please stick to caution instead and thank you.


3 Sweat the assets

DEFINITION To be honest, we are not sure where to start with this one. Does the sweat part allude to some type of intensive yoga on a ward? Who knows.

In an event organised by data insight company Wilmington Healthcare last year, delegates were told to ‘sweat community assets as part of your strategy’ to get value.

Sweating the assets can be defined as extracting the maximum possible value from an asset, such as staff or services, instead of creating something new.

CUTTING THE CRAP Essentially, the action of sweating the assets can becompared to someone squeezing an orange to get the most juice out of it. Wait, isn’t that what simple terms such as ‘getting the most value’ out of something mean?

IS IT USEFUL? No. Do not under any circumstances try to squeeze your employees. People are not like oranges, we repeat, people are not like oranges!


4 Pump priming

DEFINITION Here we go, another idiom that doesn’t seem to belong in the healthcare language.

Online dictionary Merriam-Webster traces the term pump priming to the early 19th century. It said that the idiom denotes ‘government investment expenditures designed to induce a self-sustaining expansion of economic activity’.

CUTTING THE CRAP Here is an example of pump priming can be used in a sentence: ‘The struggling trust has renewed its call for a pump prime investment in order to fund new models of care.’

IS IT USEFUL? No, this is yet another example of jargon that isn’t needed. Next time, just ask for more money. Thank you.


5 Footprints

DEFINITION Unless you’ve been living under a rock, we’re sure that you’ve heard of footprints.

If the noun footprint is well used in the NHS, especially when referring to sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs), it originally simply denoted the mark left by a foot or shoe on a surface.

CUTTING THE CRAP Well, we would argue that since STPs cannot walk, we might as well use areas instead.

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you’re walking on a beach.


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