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A quick guide to quick guides


Blog headlines

  • Can the Community Pharmacy become the gateway to integrated care in the NHS?
    13 August 2020

    The NHS is a continually evolving innovative demand led public service the role of the Community Pharmacist is becoming the public face on a journey to the more responsible public engagement in the personal care of individuals and their family. There are currently over 11000 Pharmacies many are single or small chain service providers, while multiples occupy the urban shopping centres and more densely populated conurbations, the value of the rural High Street can’t be understated.

  • Crunch time for patient involvement
    7 August 2020

    There are new challenges for primary care, which could really do with patient input. Mike Etkind, chair of a PPG and founding member of his PCN’s patient group, recognises the size of the task clinical directors have managed over the last few months but identifies two particular issues where patients have a necessary and valuable contribution, that need to be addressed now – the 2020 vaccination programme and primary care from a distance- total triage, remote consultations, and the use of telemedicine.

  • Link of the week - Visionbridge
    31 July 2020

    The link we are sharing this week was submitted by Julian Jackson, Visionbridge.

  • Links of the week
    23 July 2020

    This week we are sharing two articles with you.

  • Link of the week
    21 July 2020

    The blog is from the perspective of the Company Chemist Association's Chief Executive Malcolm Harrison.

  • Link of the week
    9 July 2020

    This week we are sharing a blog from the NHS Confederation’s “NHS Reset” looking at the work of Healthwatch, the role of volunteers in supporting patients being discharged from hospital and the importance of the community.

  • Virtual education sessions on spinal cord injury from Spinal Injuries Association
    2 July 2020

    This week Karen Mikalsen from the Spinal Injuries Association shares some information on their work and events for healthcare professionals.

  • Guest blog:Karen Chumley
    25 June 2020

    Thank you to Karen Chumley for a second blog –this time on the local use of an Electronic Palliative Care Coordination system during the Covid-19 pandemic. Karen is the Clinical Director and Deputy CEO at St Helena.

  • Link of the week
    19 June 2020

    This week's link of the week is article by Yasmin Khanagha published in Nursing Times – Why we need to open the conversation about racism.

  • Guest blog: Dr Karen Chumbley
    12 June 2020

    This week we have a guest blog submitted by Dr Karen Chumbley, clinical director and deputy chief executive at St Helena (https://www.sthelena.org.uk/)

  • Social care to become lifestyle brand
    16 April 2020

    Social care is to get a new brand identity as the government seeks to reverse the perception that it is the poor relation of the NHS.

  • Blithering Covid-19 bulletin plays vital role
    2 April 2020

    To fill a gap in the market for timely and relevant Covid-19 information, Martin Plackard, director of global crisis communications at NHS Blithering introduces his latest initiative to reach out to stakeholders during the outbreak.

  • Social distancing the Longstay way
    27 March 2020

    We asked Sir Trevor Longstay, chief executive of the NHS Blithering University Hospitals Foundation Trust and commander-in-chief of the Blithering Covid-19 Taskforce to give us some practical tips on social distancing. Here he shares some of the lessons learned over four decades of leadership – not all of them relevant or epidemiologically sound

  • Nothing left to shift: fears grow over NHS paradigm supply
    12 March 2020

    The government has issued a stark warning that stocks of paradigms and other basic supplies could soon run out if NHS managers continue panic-buying.

  • Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up
    27 February 2020

    Taking personal charge of global pandemics is one of the perks of this job. I’m referring to coronavirus, of course, and I’m booked to appear on Sky News to talk about it.

  • Exceeding your expectations: the Blithering staff survey
    20 February 2020

    Staff at NHS Blithering feel listened to “at least once a year” and report that their expectations of taking part in surveys have been “met” or “exceeded” in the past 12 months.

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Tuesday
    7 February 2020

    The second in our series of privileged insights to the working life of Martin Plackard, the NHS’s most gifted communicator

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Monday
    30 January 2020

    First in an occasional series of glimpses into a typical week in the life of Martin Plackard, the NHS's most influential strategic communicator

  • A quick guide to quick guides
    24 January 2020

    Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

  • Towards people and impact
    17 January 2020

    This week the Royal Pharmaceutical Society advertised for a head of engagement and belonging. Such titles can be controversial – but not for Martin Plackard, whose CV features a number of leadership roles in the fields of impact, euphemism management and talent delivery.

Friday, 24 January 2020

A quick guide to quick guides

Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

This handy, bite-size explainer tells you all you need to know to create quick guides of your own.

Start by picking a complex topic that people often find hard to understand, such as medicine, then turn it into an eight page A5 booklet leaving out the boring, difficult bits.

Or choose a topic that people feel they should know about. Safe choices are compassion, leadership, collaboration, change and patients.

Who am I writing it for?

Your ideal reader knows nothing about the topic, doesn’t have the time to learn about it in depth, but may have an urgent need to express an opinion about it in a meeting or on social media.

Your job is not to fill their heads with “facts” but to get them started on their learning journey (see also our Quick Guide to Personal Growth).

What if I know nothing about the topic?

Then you are in an ideal place to understand the needs of the reader. Knowledge will only get in the way.

How should I get started?

Google should provide you with all the material you need. Don’t get bogged down in lengthy reports and academic papers. Don’t “reinvent the wheel” or feel compelled to do “original work”. Look for other quick guides on the same topic and cut and paste the best bits into yours (see also our Brief Guide to Plagiarism).

What should I include?

A high-level introduction – this should clearly set out your aims, the scope of the guide and a summary of the main points for anyone who doesn’t have time to read the whole thing. Include clear and simple instructions about how to use the guide, for example “Start at the beginning and read the words until they run out”.

Practical advice – readers will only engage if they believe they are getting practical advice or if the advice you give sounds practical. Your role is to stimulate their interest in practicality not to tell them how to apply it.

Top tips – don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Remember, some readers will know even less about the topic than you do. Examples of reusable top tips are: “Involve other people and ask them what they think”, “Focus on building relationships”, “Make a plan and stick to it” and “When you have a good idea, write it down” (see also our Smart Guide to Effective Tips and Hints).

Case studies – nothing illustrates the art of the possible better than a case study. Like everything else in your guide, these should contain a minimum of “information”. Remember to include an encouraging description of one or more desired outcomes. Actual outcomes, where available, are a bonus.

Checklists – pilots and surgeons rely on checklists, so should you. A checklist will help the readers to gain the confidence to take their next steps whether that’s flying an Airbus, performing delicate neurosurgery or starting a stakeholder outreach project.

Actions – these may or may not be appropriate to your guide. If actions are not for you, leave them out or save them for a follow-up guide.      

Illustrations – too many words will put readers off. To appeal to different learning styles use visuals such as infographics, which allow you to oversimplify even the most difficult subjects, and diagrams to convey ideas that might sound implausible if you described them in words. Helpful shapes include pyramids and quadrants, while arrows are good for creating a sense of direction or movement.

Links to useful resources – a long list of further reading will create the impression that you know the subject inside out. You don’t need to have read it all yourself – you can’t be expected to do everything.

Glossary – readers will appreciate a brief description of any acronyms, jargon or terms you’ve invented to make your document truly indispensable.

How long should it take to write?

A quick guide should be a five-minute read. Obviously it will take longer than that to write. Allow yourself at least 20 minutes. If it takes all afternoon you’re probably overthinking it (see also our Beginner’s Guide to Thinking).

Bite-size editor: Julian Patterson


richard.ward3@nhs.net says:
Jan 24, 2020 02:43 PM

Julian - pithy article as ever. I know you haven't covered FAQ's per se, but I wonder if you could give a quick guide on FAQ's. I'm particularly interested in how many times a question needs to be asked in the NHS before it becomes "Frequently Asked". Every time I'm presented with a new website I ask the question, but there is no consistency in the responses I get. Can you quantify?
Many thanks

Julian Patterson
Julian Patterson says:
Jan 24, 2020 03:31 PM

Thanks, Richard. I'll give it a go and speculate that most NHS bodies need to be asked a question a minimum of zero times before it features in an FAQ. I hope that helps put your mind at rest.

Lawrence Moulin
Lawrence Moulin says:
Jan 25, 2020 03:23 PM

This article looks very interesting but sadly I'm too busy to read it all, do you have an executive summary available?

Jeff Hudson
Jeff Hudson says:
Jan 27, 2020 08:49 AM

Ah Julian! You missed 2 fundamental points:
1) Never Ever put your contact details on the guide as you'll be pestered for life for more information that you don't have. The phrase "I was only asked to do a 2-sider for the boss" doesn't help.
2) Never ever assume that there is any deeper / more detailed guidance behind the quick guide. They're generally just someone's thoughts on a page with a fancy title and couple of photos of generic smiling patient and compassionate actor...

Jeff Hudson
Jeff Hudson says:
Jan 28, 2020 09:12 AM

Dearest Julian...how quickly we forget...re: towards impact:
Posted this week on NHS Jobs: Head of Kaizen Promotion Office, The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Shrewsbury
Kaizen: Japanese word meaning "change for better", without inherent meaning of either "continuous" or "philosophy" in Japanese dictionaries and in everyday use.