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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
8 June 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 makes things even worse.

Population health, leverage the opportunity and holistic healthcare are just a few examples of the numerous health and social care terms that might 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 buzzword definitions and tried to squeeze some sense out of them.


Key to irritation

Useful idea, stupid name

Just annoying

Please stop using


1 Modern matron

DEFINITION A modern matron is a clinically experienced nurse who leads a ward, raises standards of care and helps nurses undertake a greater range of clinical tasks to improve patient’s experience

CUTTING THE CRAP For Healthcare Leader, it seems as if the people behind NHS terms enjoy using fancy words to make definitions harder to understand.

Isn’t a modern matron simply an experienced nurse?

IS IT USEFUL? Not unless you’re from the 18th century – let’s just use ‘senior nurse’ instead.


2 CCO – Coordinated Care Organisations

DEFINITION If you couldn’t get your head around Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs), Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) or Accountable Care Systems (ACSs), here is another one: Coordinated Care Organisations (CCOs).

CCOs come from Oregon, US. These are networks composed of healthcare providers, including physical health and mental health care and addictions services, that have agreed to work together in their local communities to offer healthcare coverage.

CUTTING THE CRAP CCOs are local organisations that make sure people get the care they need from their providers such as pharmacists, doctors and nurses.

IS IT USEFUL? The idea behind the acronym, yes. The fact that it leads to yet another question about integrated care – ‘What makes a CCO different from an ACO’ – no.


3 Co-production

DEFINITION Last year, the Health Foundation published an 11-page report on the definition of co-production. Yes, all these pages for just one word.

The report said that co-production in an NHS context ‘has gone beyond models of service user consultation towards developing a model of service delivery intended to impact on service users and on wider social systems.

It also highlighted that ‘collaborative co-production requires users to be experts in their own circumstances and capable of making decisions, while professionals must move from being fixers to facilitators.’

CUTTING THE CRAP Isn’t collaborative co-production a tautology?

Back to the definition, co-production refers to a way of working, which equally involves health and care services, organisations, patients, carers and service users.

IS IT USEFUL? Yes to the word, no to the 11-page definition.



DEFINITION You might be wondering what domestic animals have got to do with the health service. Absolutely nothing.

In an NHS context, PET stands for Patient Experience Team.

It is a team within a trust whose responsibilities can involve coordinating patient feedback, improving the patient experience through the use of surveys and managing the trust’s policy implementation.

CUTTING THE CRAP As a patient experience team seems to be very similar to a customer service team, why not stick to the latter?

IS IT USEFUL? Yes, if you’re not allergic to cats. As an NHS term, no. Use ‘customer service team’ instead please and thank you.

5 Whole system approach

DEFINITION Whole system approach is a term designating a strategic, integrated approach to planning and delivering services. It means looking at every aspect of how a system works and understanding what each part does.

CUTTING THE CRAP Seriously, what does ‘whole’ mean in this context? Is there a situation in which anyone would talk about a ‘half’ system approach?

IS IT USEFUL? The meaning, yes, the term, no


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