Don’t spend any money on NHS Jargon Busters – it’s sorted! Download the Apps.

20130509-224405.jpgI’m not ashamed to admit my naivety and ignorance. In the last post I was astonished to find out there was a book available called ‘NHS Jargon Explained’. I was just scratching the surface…..

On the basis that jargon is the specialised or technical language of a trade, profession or similar group”, and the NHS is a massive organisation with very many specialist groups, this shouldn’t be surprising. A quick search using twitter turned up some interesting examples of NHS ‘jargon busters’. These are my favourites, apologies to anyone worthy who’s not on the list.

Guardian Newspaper, Glossary of Healthcare Jargons and Acronyms. This is 2011 vintage and has about 70 examples of the most common NHS jargon. I was a bit surprised to see BT (British Telecom) feature. Apparently it’s something to do with them running the N3 Network. Have a look at the Guardian article to find out what N3 means. You also need to know that a ‘spine’ isn’t necessarily that thing in the middle of your back.

NHS Local, West Midlands. This is provided by a group of NHS organisations, Universities and private sector organisations that are “transforming healthcare by changing the conversation between patient and the NHS” (that’s not jargon is it). The jargon buster has about 70 explanations, mainly to do with maternity services. Very useful if you need to use that service. A great explanation of ‘oily fish’ can be found here.

Leicestershire NHS, Health Informatics Service. This is blog by a Communications and Marketing Officer in Leicestershire NHS, that explains about 30 Information Technology terms used in the NHS. Helpful information about the language used by another specialist group that will be of benefit to those who don’t work in IT or understand it. Unfortunately there was no explanation of exactly what ‘informatics’ means (is it just me?).

Health and Social Care Information Centre, National Casemix Office Jargon Buster. I had to use the jargon buster to understand what a ‘Casemix Office’ does: “A system whereby the complexity of the care provided to a patient is reflected in an aggregate secondary healthcare classification.” Phew, thank goodness that’s cleared up. There are about 60 definitions here, some of them pretty baffling, but it is the language of a very specialist group. Well worth a look if you want to understand what ‘complications and comorbidities’ are all about, alongside ‘cliff edges’, ‘unbundling’ and ‘spells’.

NHS Confederation Acronym Buster. This has a bumper 500 acronyms explained. There is even Application Software (an App, see the NHS Leicestershire definition) available to download for free. This is very helpful and something you could keep under the desk for emergency situations when the healthcare experts are running wild. My only gripe would be that defining acronyms is only half of the problem solved. The jargon remains.

My Health London.  This is an award-winning information website for health services in London. The jargon buster is in a section focussed on young people and there is also a free App you can download called ‘Well Happy’. This is worth a look as it has very clear, jargon free explanations under headings such as ‘Sex and Relationships’ and ‘Alcohol and Addiction’.  Very useful for those difficult conversations with the teenage kids.

This has been a bit of an eye opener. Specialist groups certainly do have their own language, unfortunately jargon to outsiders. There were other examples I stumbled across from the third sector, IT, property and law. Nothing I could find specifically from the world of Local Government… yet?

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. In a large and complicated organisation like the NHS the occurrence of many specialist groups with their own technical language (jargon) is inevitable.
  2. The specialist groups need to make sure they don’t exclude outsiders by the use of technical language that isn’t easily understood.
  3. The good news is that may specialist groups are trying their best to share their ‘jargon busters’ which are free for everyone to use. Hopeful those who aren’t as well-developed or inclusive will pick these up and use them.

Picture Source: My Health London, Young Peoples, ‘Well Happy’ App.


About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

7 Responses

  1. Hi there, my name is Kat and i’m the project manager for WellHappy.

    Thank you so much for featuring our app in your blog & for also sharing some other jargon busters i wasn’t aware of.

    We developed a jargon buster with the help of young people and professionals from YoungMinds because the world of mental health services can be incredibly difficult to navigate given the language used, especially the abundance of acronyms!

    If there are any that we have missed pleased let us know and we will be happy to add them!

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