How 2011 can be the year of a 'plain English' health service

[From Indo >>>] Phrases like 'stakeholder engagement', 'buy in', 'integrated pathways', 'funding envelope', 'systemic failure' trip off the tongue of health executives while also littering reports and reviews.

Other words or phrases, thanks to their vagueness, are used time and again. Some of the worst platitudes include:

  • Reform -- a hoary old chestnut in the health service at this stage. It has been debased through over-use and has been called on too often as a way of playing for time when in reality no meaningful change for the better has been made.
  • Subject to budgetary parameters -- a great fallback when avoiding a straight answer to a question on whether funding for some service will be made available. Politicians love it because it allows them delay the bad news.
  • Service users/providers -- titles which have now reached epidemic proportions. They crop up all the time in particular areas. A patient with a psychiatric illness, a person with a disability or an older person with a home-care package cannot be described as such but instead they become a generic 'service user'.
  • Challenge -- a word that has been trampled on in the health service in recent years. It is one of those shields senior executives use when they are confronted with a tough question.

So, for instance, when quizzed on why people are enduring long delays to see a specialist they prefer to talk of the challenge instead of spelling out what they are doing to solve the problem or admitting they don't have a solution.

  • Clinical leadership -- the reality is most people outside health professions would be hard pressed to know what it means. It merely involves professionals like doctors involved in decision-making rather than relying solely on lay people. Yet managers and executives use the phrase with abandon. It is yet another pompous use of jargon.
  • Stakeholder engagement -- this must be one of the first for the dustbin. It sounds fine and lofty but the reality is much more mundane. Why not say simply that 'we are speaking to all the groups and individuals who have an interest in the area'?
  • Intervention -- a word not just beloved of bureaucrats, but doctors who should know better. It could all be more easily explained as some task or action to treat or cure an illness or condition.
  • World-class health service -- definitely time to give this one a rest. We have been constantly promised the elusive world class health service but then we see our survival rates and waiting lists contrasted against the best in Europe.

Better to keep it real and stop patronising people with nonsense.

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