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Why can't NHS managers talk like normal people?

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I’m inventing a new law, Turner’s law: The quality of information communicated is inversely proportional to the ease of communicating it.

They make me eternally grateful for being a GP

NHS e-mail is a good example. Now I rarely use my NHS e-mail account, but I do regularly check it, every three to six weeks, when I have nothing more important to do, like personally supervising all the new paint drying in the surgery. I have to say the contents of the unsolicited e-mails I receive would make a Serbo-Croat translation of Chaucer seem like a Ladybird book in comparison.

You open one of these electronic horrors and the cc list alone makes the greater London phone book look like a pamphlet containing junior doctors’ eulogies for Jeremy Hunt. They just seem to send every bit of information to everybody with no regard whatsoever to its relevance.

I can’t imagine the ancient Greeks would have sent Phidippides on his epic and ultimately fatal run from Marathon to Athens to advise: ’when granting new online accounts the DCR is automatically enabled by default, please deselect this until you are ready to share this record’.

What is it with NHS managers*, why can’t they talk like normal people? It’s almost as if they are trying to hide something behind incomprehensible and meaningless jargon. I mean, is it just me, or does anyone else get a mental image of a cloaked medieval character holding a sharpened stick, when anybody says the word ‘stakeholder’?

Yes, we have plenty of jargon in medicine, but we spend the second half of our training learning how to translate this back into language normal people can understand. Did all these managers just bunk off the latter part of their courses?

These e-mails do one thing I never thought possible though, they make me eternally grateful for being a GP. Given a choice between dealing with thrombosed piles all day every day or reading these electronic agglomerations of management toss, I’d have a pair of latex gloves permanently glued to my hands.

*just for clarity I don’t mean practice managers - they are heaven-sent and worth their weight in gold.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Azeem Majeed

    To be fair to managers, a lot of the letters written by doctors can also be difficult for non-medics to understand. Some letters have so many abbreviations and acronyms, they can be hard even for other doctors to interpret.

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  • Thanks to Dr Turner for his PM compliment. It's the sheer number of attachments that these mandarins think we would be interested to 'read and disseminate' to all in the practice. Yeah, like ok, so that's no one then, including me.

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  • To entertain ourselves at PCT meetings we used to play bullsh*t bingo, where you had to tick off all the overused and well rehearsed jargon that came out every time. Terms like granularity, waterfalls, ice climbs, recovery plans etc etc. You could always tell who had just been to an expensive management consultancy course as there would be the new phrase of the day!

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  • Having fallen into being an NHS Manager by trade with a private sector background, have to say it's a very good question. As the previous comment has said bulls**t bingo is always a good one to play - generally the higher the score, the lower the understanding the author has of a subject and the more pointless the meeting.

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  • @Steve Benjamin
    My last NHSE Newsletter seemed to consist of little more than 34 (!)links to various websites. Am I really going to click through to them all?

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  • I've not yet set up my NHS mail
    A little reluctant now

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  • Since NHS email migrated to NHS.2 or whatever it's called now, the junk mail has increased exponentially.

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  • Re junk and NHS mail. How do you discern the difference?there could be some gems in the junk?!

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  • Thanks Dr Turner!! I've just written my own blog about the abbreviations problem - much the same as jargon.......it drives me insane - and I agree with your comments about NHS mail - the 'To' box often takes up a whole A4 sheet, never mind those who have been cc'd into the thread!!!

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