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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
28 September 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 Consumer

DEFINITION Although it is not incorrect to refer to patients as consumers, as they consume healthcare services for their personal use, it does sound a bit as if they were purchasing goods.

But in contrast to a regular consumer, who might decide to buy something out of necessity or pleasure, a healthcare consumer does not use health and social care services by choice.

CUTTING THE CRAP Although we do not believe the term is wrong, it seems inappropriate to use it in this context. Shall we switch to service user instead?

IS IT USEFUL? Probably if you are looking to buy a TV.


2 Active listening

DEFINITION NHS Improvement’s definition of active listening can be found in a four-page guidance document. We can probably define the term in two sentences.

Active listening refers to someone who fully listens to an individual, for example by making eye contact, not interrupting them and focusing on them. Done.

CUTTING THE CRAP As far as we are concerned this is called being polite.

IS IT USEFUL? Unless there is a switch that turns on different listening modes in people, we’ll stick to listening only, thank you.


3 Virtual ward

DEFINITION  The idea behind a virtual ward is to discharge patients with long-term conditions who do not need to remain in hospital. They can be looked after by healthcare professionals, including nurses, in their own home.

CUTTING THE CRAP Well, since a virtual ward is actually a real place, why not call it what it is, a home?

IS IT USEFUL? Only if you like video games.


4 Caring activism

DEFINITION Similar to a political or social campaign, caring activism describes a group of people gathering in a local area, in this case to support and help those in need.

According to author Peter Limbrick, it’s a new concept of care that’s developing around the world and whose main principles involve an activist who is ‘present in a helping relationship with the vulnerable person’ and provides ‘immediate, relevant practical support’.

CUTTING THE CRAP That is what caring is for, isn’t it?

IS IT USEFUL? We would argue that once explained the idea is great, but we can’t help think the term is a bit dramatic.


5 Recovery hub

DEFINITION The Cambridge Dictionary defines a hub as the ‘central or main part of something where there is most activity.’ It can also be ‘the central part of a wheel into which the bars connecting the central part of the outer edge of the wheel are fixed’.

In healthcare, recovery hubs are services for older people who are ready to leave hospital but are still in need of care. Wait, that does sound familiar… Oh hello virtual hubs!

While we’re not entirely sure of the difference between the two, we know that hubs are usually run by councils.

CUTTING THE CRAP Knowing that a recovery hub can also be a place in the community where mental health patients seek support, it just adds confusion to the mix.

IS IT USEFUL? Might be if you have an interest in mechanics.


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