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What does bad look like?


Blog headlines

  • Community-Oriented Integrated Care
    18 February 2021

    The blog this week is a short extract from a paper considering an approach primary care networks could use to move towards community-oriented integrated care.

  • Strategy Unit releases opensource model for planning vaccine centre capacity
    11 February 2021

    This week's blog is from The Strategy Unit who are sharing an opensource model to help with vaccine centre capacity planning.

  • Time to talk day
    4 February 2021

    A small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference.

  • Supporting Staff: the emergence of ‘long-covid’
    28 January 2021

    As we are now well into a second, or is it now the third, wave of Covid-19 it is becoming apparent that Covid is something we have not experienced before and it has unique implications for staff management. It is not just the possibility that staff may become acutely ill with the virus, but that for some they may go on to develop persistent debilitating symptoms that will affect their ability to go back to work. This article looks at the implications of long-covid for HR and service managers when looking to support health care professionals (HCPs) return to work.

  • Link of the week: Clinically-Led workforce and Activity Redesign (CLEAR)
    21 January 2021

    This week we are sharing a link to the Clinically-Led workforce and Activity Redesign (CLEAR) site that is funded by Health Education England.

  • So much more than an extra pair of hands
    14 January 2021

    The introduction of the additional roles reimbursement scheme for primary care networks has started to grow capacity in general practice to address the unsustainably high workload that has put so much pressure on GPs.

  • Primary Care Networks – how did we get here?
    7 January 2021

    This week we are sharing a blog by PCC’s chairman David Colin-Thomé.

  • A year like no other
    17 December 2020

    On 5 July 1948 the NHS was born, over the last 72 years challenges and changes have been remarkable but the service has probably never been tested as much as in the last nine months. There have previously been numerous re-organisations, multiple changes to hospitals, mental health services and a shift from the family doctor towards more integrated primary care services delivered by a range of professionals. However, rapid transformation of services to embrace digital technologies, and a shift change to work differently has been forced upon all areas of the health service this year.

  • Guest blog: David Hotchin
    11 December 2020

    This week we have a guest blog that was submitted to us by David Hotchin, written by a retired friend....obviously, he's used a little poetic licence.

  • What now for commissioning?
    3 December 2020

    By Professor David Colin-Thomé, OBE, chair of PCC and formerly a GP for 36 years, the National Clinical Director of Primary, Dept of Health England 2001- 10 and visiting Professor Manchester and Durham Universities.

  • What White people don’t see
    26 November 2020

    This year’s Black History Month (BHM) has, unfortunately, in its shadow another example of why campaigns like this exist.

  • Primary Care: Why don’t we talk about Racism?
    20 November 2020

    Rita Symons is an ex NHS leader who is now a leadership consultant, coach and facilitator. Her work is mainly in the NHS and she is an associate for PCC offering facilitation, coaching, strategy development and team development activities. She is a concerned but hopeful world citizen and combines work in the NHS with a board role in a non for profit organisation and an interest in writing.

  • Primary Care and the Health of the Public
    12 November 2020

    By Professor David Colin-Thomé, OBE, chair of PCC and formerly a GP for 36 years, the National Clinical Director of Primary, Dept of Health England 2001- 10 and visiting Professor Manchester and Durham Universities.

  • What now for primary care
    4 November 2020

    By Professor David Colin-Thomé, OBE, chair of PCC and formerly a GP for 36 years, the National Clinical Director of Primary, Dept of Health England 2001- 10 and visiting Professor Manchester and Durham Universities.

  • Boosting your resilience
    30 October 2020

    The last year has been a difficult one, who would have imagined last Christmas that we would have been in lockdown, with the NHS seriously tested by a global pandemic. So much change has happened and the resilience of people working in and with health and care services has been seriously tested. Resilience is our ability to deal with, find strengths in and/or recover from difficult situations. Its sometimes referred to as “bounceabiliy” – but bouncing in what way?

  • Link of the week: National Cholesterol Month
    23 October 2020

    Every month or week of the year seems to be an awareness week, October has more than its fair share.

  • New redeployment service offers talent pool of motivated, work-ready individuals
    15 October 2020

    People 1st International have shared some of the work they are doing to support people displaced from industries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There is an opportunity for health and care services to benefit from this workforce.

  • Link of the week
    9 October 2020

    Article published in the BMJ looking at the ability of the health service to quickly bounce back to pre-Covid levels of activity and considers if it is desirable.

  • Virtual Consultations– the patient perspective
    2 October 2020

    This week Jessie Cunnett, director of health and social care at Transverse has shared this article.

  • Virtual Consultations– the patient perspective
    1 October 2020

    This week Jessie Cunnett, director of health and social care at Transverse has shared this article - Virtual Consultations– the patient perspective.

Friday, 12 July 2013

What does bad look like?

The NHS is a world leader in the use of hackneyed phrases, gobbledygook and jargon. Where plain English words are not up to the job – and let’s face it, they rarely are - we invent brilliant new ones.

The NHS is particularly adept at producing euphemisms, because as we know, the main point of communication is to avoid causing offence. Meaning and clarity are at best secondary considerations.

NHS organisations make the shortlist of The Plain English Campaign’s “Golden Bull” award scheme every year. Four NHS organisations were among the last ten entries for the “worst written nonsense” in 2012. Well done to you all.

Cheshire Warrington and Wirral Commissioning Support Service was nominated for a passage containing this example: “Building in equality and risk impact assessments the options are taken through a process to arrive at the content for an output based specification and benefits foreseen as a result of the implementation.”

NHS Norfolk and Waveney’s nomination is down to this little beauty: “[We] apply a negative financial uplift to the out-turn value of all our supplier contracts” – a poignant reminder of the negative uplift to the out-turn value of the English language caused by the passing of PCTs.

To celebrate the NHS’s sixty-fifth birthday NHS Networks has compiled a list of the top terms found in reports, policy documents and overarching strategic plans.

Send us your examples of world-class NHS guff (or just paste them into the comment box below). The sender of the best entry will get a copy of Lynne Truss’s disgracefully jargon-free bestseller Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

Let us know if we’ve left any of your favourites off our list.


What does good look like? – a useful warm-up question for anyone preparing to think out of the box

Overarching – never rely on a mere strategy or try to muddle through with something as basic as a plan

Hard to reach – remote or disadvantaged members of society lurking at the back of cupboard or left on a high shelf

Tick-box exercise – survey your team regularly to make sure they are not wasting their time on these

In the driving seat – where everyone needs to be, however crowded and dangerous it becomes

Taking ownership of problems – a chance to get to know your problems before (or instead of) tackling them

Patient-centred care – useful reminder of what we do for anyone prone to lapses of concentration on the ward or in the operating theatre

Going forward – adds a sense of purpose to the idea of getting around to something at some point

Direction of travel – replaces the outmoded concept of a destination: it’s where you’re heading that counts

Transformational change – when ordinary change simply won’t cut it

Evidence-based – no sentence containing the word “decision” is complete without it

Clinical leadership – the special leadership only a fellow doctor can provide

Lifted and shifted – what most industries do with cargo, the NHS does with humans

Joined-up thinking – something to aspire to when you’ve mastered joined-up writing and joined-up shoelaces

Reinvent the wheel – thanks to this phrase you won’t ever need to

Editor: Julian Patterson

Chris Collison
Chris Collison says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:02 PM
Well done Julian, you have written a beacon of best practice in world class thought leadership.
Martin Rathfelder
Martin Rathfelder says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:16 PM
Scale and Pace - new rivals to Ant and Dec
Janine Reynolds
Janine Reynolds says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:25 PM
Low hanging fruit (we'll do the easy bits first), Belt and Braces approach (we'll do it properly, for once), Combining Synergies (I can't think of another phrase so I'll chuck this in).
Janine Reynolds
Janine Reynolds says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:27 PM
Oh and "Let's take this off line"... (I can't be bothered to ask politely if we can talk about this later on when the meeting has finished)
Mat Jordan
Mat Jordan says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:35 PM
Given that we've been doing so much of it lately, my vote is for the verb 'to transition'. I transition, we transition, they transition, we all transition together. It's what you do in between leveraging synergies.
Kevin Willis
Kevin Willis says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:39 PM
A raft of ideas....probably destined to sink without trace.
Laura Lopez-Bueno
Laura Lopez-Bueno says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:47 PM
Community Interest Company (CIC): A highly profitable business with a bulging PR growth in its moral fibres.
Anonymous says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:47 PM
Making Every Contact Count (MECC). Forcing all new friends to demonstrate how many fingers (and maybe toes) they have. "The solution is in the room" - The cocktails are on me. "Let me land on this one" Runway for a new idea.
julie upton
julie upton says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:47 PM
I can't worry about all this jargon, I'm too busy trying to operate within my financial envelope to recover my financial position
Anonymous says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:51 PM
Ball park .... where you park your ..er ..maybe not
Rich Anderson
Rich Anderson says:
Jul 12, 2013 02:54 PM
Proforma - Someone somewhere in our trust called a form a proforma and as everyone with an ordinary form must be less important than those with a proforma it has spread to all areas. Lets misuse a latin term - it's got Pro in it and it contains the word form so it must mean the same but better! (even if the original latin term means that you don't actually have to fill it in as it's treated as already complete...)
Eg. Could you send me a copy of the transformation plan proforma?

Signposting - we can't tell people things anymore we have to signpost them.
Eg. Could you signpost me to the synergy meeting?

Anonymous says:
Jul 12, 2013 03:26 PM
We 'embed the values' and are constantly 'living the values'. As opposed to, well, just working with them in mind? (Do we get let off at weekends?)
Anonymous says:
Jul 12, 2013 04:55 PM
Lets not forget the Bruce Willis moments when we have 'drill down into the detail' or even take part in a 'deep dive' exercise, oh its hard work being an NHS manager.
Clare Hodgson
Clare Hodgson says:
Jul 12, 2013 07:53 PM
We are where we are - just to absolutely clear that we're not where we 're not. Does anyone know the way out of here?
Anonymous says:
Jul 13, 2013 07:25 AM
where the heck did 'fit and proper person' come from? I was broadsided by the one! Are these fit and proper persons instead of the aliens and cardboard cutouts we have been employing all these years.
Anonymous says:
Jul 15, 2013 09:19 AM
Let's not forget the 'boundary spanners', those nifty little tools for'change architects' to fix the plumbing, air con, staff morale etc. If only they worked on outmoded NHS bureaucratic processes too!
Anonymous says:
Jul 15, 2013 10:36 AM
Thanks for this wake-up call. I always said I wasn't going to go native and would try to resist speaking this language when I first started working at an SHA in 2008. It's terrifying to realise that I use these terms all the time and think I'm speaking normally. Think I need to implement a turnaround programme so I can model a return to my value abse.
Anonymous says:
Jul 15, 2013 10:37 AM
Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson says:
Jul 15, 2013 11:59 AM
There needs to be a series of conversations with stakeholders about this.
Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson says:
Jul 15, 2013 12:00 PM
There needs to be a series of conversations with stakeholders about this.
Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson says:
Jul 15, 2013 12:01 PM
Twice, apparently.
Bernard Horan
Bernard Horan says:
Jul 15, 2013 01:17 PM
Interview question from NHS England given to one of my team: "Can you give me an example of a time when you have valued someone's diversity?"
One time we received a long piece of guidance on how to write an Exec Summary. There were 3 main points listed. Number 2: Avoid jargon. Number 3: Meat to the bone
Sarah Carnwell
Sarah Carnwell says:
Jul 16, 2013 09:41 AM
Working in silos - to busy doing the job to be able to go and visit the farm!
Bernard Horan
Bernard Horan says:
Jul 16, 2013 09:57 AM
Swim Lane Diagram. Ring the bells and break down some of the walls. Flight path to success. Time Box Zero.
Anonymous says:
Jul 17, 2013 03:17 PM
When attending briefing meetings in the early days of PCTs, a fellow colleague and myself used to play bull**** bingo - each player chooses 6 (different) current "management speak buzzwords" before the start of the meeting, and wrote your chosen words / phrases down. As the meeting unfolds, strike out each word or phrase from your own list as it is spoken - as you would with a game of bingo. This certainly makes you listen to the presenter / speaker. (for extra impact, do not sit together with fellow players, and stand up / shout bingo when your card is completed)
Anonymous says:
Jul 18, 2013 11:47 AM
Horizon scanning - seeing who else is doing it, but better.
Andreas says:
Jul 23, 2013 10:02 AM
Check this out! 2 minutes of surrealism via the NHS #VMShortsVote Naughty http://shar.es/kcmhu via @VMShorts