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Doctors worry about NHS jargon

3rd June 2009

Doctors and campaigners have warned about the rising use of jargon in the NHS.

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The British Medical Association and the Plain English Campaign have criticised the increased use of jargon terms, which they fear could harm patient care.

Phrases that are creeping in include client or service user, for patient; efficiency savings and disinvestment, for cuts; and proof of concept, for pilot.

The subject was debated at the annual meeting of the BMA consultants group on Wednesday.

West Yorkshire consultant anaesthetist Peter Bamber, who proposed the motion that was passed, said: "We see all sorts of phrases creeping into the NHS.

"Some of it is an attempt to destigmatise conditions, but I do not think there is anything wrong with the use of 'patient'.

"Using something else suggests the condition may be something the person should just snap out of and that is damaging in itself."

The BMA also highlighted jargon in communications between managers and doctors while the Plain English Campaign feared such language was creeping into public consultations run by NHS trusts and the Department of Health.

Spokeswoman Marie Clair said: "The problem is that use of these phrases spread very quickly. We have had lots of feedback from people who are upset or worried about this.

"When it comes to medicine the confusion can be over life or death issues. It comes down to arrogance, but I would say doctors are not exempt from using inaccessible language."

The Department of Health said it was working with health managers to improve the use of language.

 

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