Unhealthy habits

We at the Campaign have spent plenty of time attacking the use of jargon in various industries. We have criticised those relying on waffle in banks, universities, supermarkets, and all manner of other industries.

However, when it comes to the NHS, the issue is a bit more serious than collaring deceitful salesmanship or ambiguous terms and conditions. We’re dealing with information that could seriously and directly damage someone’s health.

As has come to our attention on numerous occasions recently, patients are struggling to understand the information given to them about their health issues, be that due to poor communication or gobbledygook.

Additionally, medical professionals are seemingly more often than ever misunderstanding each other, with jargon-heavy instructions from one to another further clouding information. This often results in inappropriate, and potentially very dangerous, prescriptions being passed on to the patient.

So what’s the problem? It’s a complicated issue. NHS management likes to hide behind gobbledygook, be it due to government-led pressure or the usual hierarchical, jargon-heavy one-upmanship that comes with most large organisations. (Long words, to many, still mean substance, showing off and establishing kinship with other misusers of pointlessly complex language.) This is all the more so when making difficult or unpopular decisions and can become a problem throughout the organisation.

Patients are not the priority: hitting targets is. Jargon, in such a climate, becomes a badge of equality among different levels of overworked, embattled staff. It becomes a shorthand of inclusiveness, and can save a lot of time explaining matters, as well as offering a hollow form of kudos.

The problem arises when patients are then expected to deal in the same levels of nonsense, which have become so prevalent as to be the norm or at very least have bled into what was once much clearer. Patients are now simply a part of hospital and medical-centre life, not why the hospitals and medical centres are there in the first place. Unless there is a sudden, extremely unlikely change to clear language between managers and staff, this needs to change before jargon in that industry can be dealt with.

Copyright © 2017 Plain English Campaign. All Rights Reserved.

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.

EU Cookie Directive Module Information