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Why can’t NHS managers talk like normal people?



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