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Cut the crap: an alternative glossary of NHS jargon

Cut the crap: an alternative glossary of NHS jargon
By Valeria Fiore Reporter
24 May 2019

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

Key to irritation

1 Useful idea, stupid name
2 Just annoying
3 Please stop using

1 Finished admission episodes

DEFINITION NHS England defines finished admission episodes as ‘the first period of inpatient care under one consultant within one healthcare provider’.

Three words and an acronym – it goes by (FAE) – to describe the period a patient spends in a healthcare organisation under the care of one consultant.

NHS England commonly uses the expression when providing Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES), a collection containing records of all patients admitted to NHS hospitals in England.

CUTTING THE CRAP I mean, maybe I’m being a little basic but wouldn’t it be easier to use ‘hospital time’ or ‘care home time’ instead?

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you are talking about episodes on Netflix.


2 Informal patient

DEFINITION Here is an example of two words that when used together in the NHS system gain a completely different meaning.
Informal patients are people with mental health problems who decide to receive help in an hospital setting as inpatients on their own will, differently from formal patients.

This means that they can leave whenever they prefer.

CUTTING THE CRAP UK charity Mind usually refers to informal patients as ‘voluntary patients’. Can we please adopt this expression instead?

IS IT USEFUL? No, unless you can provide formal and fancy clothes to every patient and considering the NHS is a little stretched, it may be a bit of a push.


3 Diagnostic overshadowing

DEFINITION The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) recently stressed on the importance of protected training time for nurses working with people with learning disabilities.

This is because, the college said, more needs to be done to reduce the risk of ‘diagnostic overshadowing’.

Let us shed some light on this. Diagnostic overshadowing occurs when a clinician uses an ongoing health condition or disability to explain all other health problems a patient might have. This means that clinicians might misdiagnose symptoms of physical or mental ill health.

CUTTING THE CRAP Although we agree that every patient should receive fair and unbiased care, the term is complicated. If the result of this behaviour is poor diagnosis, cannot we just use ‘misdiagnosis’ instead?

IS IT USEFUL? Yes, if you want to raise awareness on this issue among NHS staff, who already know what it means. However, bear in mind that some NHS patients might still perceive it as an ‘obscure’ term.


4 SAS doctors

DEFINITION No, these doctors are not part of the Special Air Service (SAS), which is one of the first things that come up on Google when you look for SAS.

Yes, some of them might be SASsy, but the acronym exists already on its own and it is clearly not a typo.

NHS Employers defines specialty and associate specialist (SAS) doctors as ‘specialty doctors, associate specialists, staff grades and a number of other career grades’.

CUTTING THE CRAP Can we just use speciality doctor instead?

IS IT USEFUL? No. Keep it simple please.



DEFINITION This acronym is a pack full of meanings. Pun intended.

Definition n.1:

In 2015, NHS England introduced the acronym to refer to primary and acute care systems (PACS), new vanguard models that were set up with the aim of joining GP, hospital, community and mental health services. Sounds familiar? That is because along with the multispeciality community provider vanguard model, PACS were considered the right candidates to become accountable care organisations (ACOs), another acronym that now goes by integrated care provider (ICP).

Definition n.2: The acronym has also been used to refer to Picture Archiving and Communication System, a medical imaging technology that allows clinicians to share medical images electronically.

CUTTING THE CRAP We know how busy everyone working in the NHS is. But spelling out words doesn’t take you more than a few seconds and especially when it’s clearly open to two different interpretations.

IS IT USEFUL? No. Do you know what PAC also stands for? Program and control. In Pac-Man.


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