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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
31 October 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 Efficiency savings

DEFINITION In times of economic recession and financial difficulties, organisations often talk about finding efficiency savings.

The term ‘efficiency savings’ refers to savings that can be made by making better use of existing resources, in order to reduce waste.

CUTTING THE CRAP If you ask us, it is just a euphemism for budget cuts. Let’s be realistic, efficiency savings sounds better than ‘getting rid of people to save money, as the organisation is struggling to make ends meet’.

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you don’t want your employees to know what’s really going on.


2 Scaffolding

DEFINITION In an education context, scaffolding is a learning process in which a teacher share new information with a student through a step by step process, imparting the information gradually. This form of teaching can be used to support people with learning difficulties or mental health problems, for example.

Like physical scaffolding, the idea is to offer a temporary support structure that is removed once a student acquires more knowledge and independence.

CUTTING THE CRAP This is another word that doesn’t belong in the NHS dictionary. Shall we use ‘staged support’ instead?

IS IT USEFUL? Yes, if you are renovating a building.

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3 Reinventing the wheel

DEFINITION Last month, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that ‘we must make use of the best technology available to support some of our most basic needs – and not reinvent the wheel for the NHS’.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the idiom means wasting time by doing something that has already been achieved or created by someone else.

CUTTING THE CRAP The term doesn’t apply just to the healthcare sector but, either way, we believe it is just another tired term replacing an existing, common one.

IS IT USEFUL? No. Please stick to wasting time, thank you.


4 Integrated care pathway

DEFINITION There are numerous pathways within the NHS, including mental health issues, palliative care and long-term conditions.

According to not-for-profit organisation European Pathway Association (EPA), there isn’t one single and clear definition for what integrated care pathways are. Great, that’s good news for us.

However, the EPA argues that such pathways are used to ‘systematically plan and follow up a patient focused care program’.

CUTTING THE CRAP Simply put, an integrated care pathway is a process in which a patient is looked after, from their first contact with an NHS service to the end of their treatment.

IS IT USEFUL? Might be if you need a path to the bottom of your garden.


5 Agile working

DEFINITION In 2013, NHS Employers dedicated no less than 22 pages of a document to agile working.

Consultancy firm Agile Organisation describes the term as ‘a way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose ­ – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints – to optimise their performance and deliver “best in class” value and customer services’.

CUTTING THE CRAP Wait, isn’t that what others call flexible working?

IS IT USEFUL? Unless you are a ninja or a gymnast, we’re afraid this won’t help you be successful.


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