Don’t succumb to poor communication

The NHS is poorly. Very poorly. Poorly, by the way, is a medical professional’s euphemism for ‘in danger of expiring’.

It appears to the outside observer that poor internal and external communication may prove to be dangerous, even fatal.

Jargon is the poison that will kill the health service’s communication and when it cannot communicate, it will, itself, die.

In a biting piece on the NHS, Health correspondent Nick Triggle explains how confused and confusing language is symptomatic of the decline.

He cites ‘STP’ as one example. Not the motor oil, by the way, but an acronym for an equally obscure item of management-speak.

On its own the acronym doesn’t give much away. What does it stand for? ‘Sustainability and transformation plan’. Hmm; none the wiser?

Sustainability and Transformation Plans have the power to re-shape the health system because they reduce hospital services and offer care at community level instead.

It’s an example of a dramatic change masked by jargon that is impossible to understand. Some insiders have dubbed ‘STP’s ‘sticky toffee puddings’, possibly to avoid the inevitable political and media backlash to everything the health service tries to do.

Cartoon illustrating the dangers of using too much jargon which results in poor communication

The NHS is rather too fond of jargon-filled communication, though.

For example: an ‘ambulatory patient pathway’ isn’t a hospital corridor. It’s a convoluted way of saying that a patient can go home after being seen in hospital.

There are 50 Vanguards in the NHS. Do you know what they are? Not advancing armies but, “Each vanguard is taking a lead on the development of new care models which will act as the blueprints for the NHS moving forward” or as you and I might say, a practical way to test new ways to run patient services.

‘Operational Pressures Escalation Levels’ are now used to describe how busy a hospital is.

Triggle reports that the Plain English Campaign (PEC) has labelled the language the NHS uses as “simply gobbledygook”.

PEC spokesman Steve Jenner says it is difficult for the public to understand what’s going on: “I can’t help thinking that [situation] suits the NHS sometimes”.

If the purpose of communication is to convey information, and it is, to cloak the facts in jargon obscures that information. The NHS, above all fails to communicate and tell patients and users the unvarnished truth.