NHS jargon buster

One of our goals is to improve the way we communicate with you. As a result, this section contains a list of commonly used NHS words or terms, along with a brief description of what they are or mean.

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A&E: Accident and emergency (A&E) is a service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week where people receive treatment for serious illness or injuries. These include loss of consciousness, severe bleeding and broken bones.

Acute care: Short-term treatment, usually in a hospital, for patients with any kind of illness or injury.

Acute trust: NHS acute trusts manage hospitals, while some also provide community services. Some are regional or national centres for specialist care, while some are attached to universities and help to train health professionals.

Better Care Fund: A single pooled budget for health and social care services to work more closely together in local areas, based on a plan agreed between the NHS and local authorities.

Bundle: A combination of relevant packages of care. As an example, a bundle for a patient with diabetes could include podiatry, dietetics, diabetes nursing and ophthalmology.

Care plan: A care plan helps people decide their health and wellbeing goals, together with the local NHS team who support them.

Care pathway: The path a patient will take through the NHS system, from their first contact with a GP to the end of their treatment.

Clinical commissioning group (CCG): These are the health commissioning organisations that replaced primary care trusts (PCTs). They are led by GPs and represent a group of GP practices in a certain area, and are responsible for commissioning healthcare services.

Commissioning: NHS commissioning is the process of ensuring that the health and care services provided meet the needs of the population.

Community setting: Treatment or support provided in a non-hospital setting. This could be in a GP practice, health centre, via voluntary services or in a patient’s own home.

CQC: The Care Quality Commission is an organization funded by the government to check all health care providers in England are meeting government standards. They then share their finding with the public.

Dementia Action Alliance: The coming together of over 900 organisations to deliver the national dementia declaration, a vision of how people with dementia and their families can be supported by society to live well with the condition.

Elective hospital: Where patients go if they need a non-urgent hospital and which can be planned/chosen.

Electronic Palliative Care Coordination System: A system which enables healthcare professionals to record and share information relating to palliative care patients, including preferred place of care, details of carers, diagnosis, resuscitation preferences and other key information.

Flat funding: A temporary freeze on NHS funding increases for a set period of time.

Foundation trusts: NHS foundation trusts are not-for-profit corporations. They are part of the NHS but have greater freedom to decide their own plans and how services should be run. Foundation trusts have members and a council of governors. The aim is that eventually all NHS trusts will become foundation trusts.

GP network or cluster: A smaller group of GP practices within a borough or CCG area.

Health and Wellbeing Boards: The aim of these local boards is to improve integration between local health care, social care, public health and other partners so that patients experience more joined-up care.

Health centre or hub: A setting for care outside hospital, adapted from existing community sites in order to provide a range of local services and serve as a support hub to local healthcare teams. The services offered vary depending on local needs and vary from bases for multidisciplinary teams to one-stop shops containing GP services, diagnostics and outpatient appointments.

HealthWatch: New local organisations whose role is to make sure patients are involved in developing and changing NHS services and provide support to local people. A national HealthWatch oversees the local organisations and provides advice as an independent part of the CQC.

Inpatient: A patient who is admitted to hospital for treatment or an operation.

Interdependency: Where some clinical services need other clinical services to be based on the same site in order for particular types of care to be fully delivered together.

Integrated care: Coordinated care, with all parts of the NHS and social services working more closely and effectively together.

Intensive care: These units provide support for patients after complex surgery or for patients needing multiple organ support such as ventilation and dialysis.

KPIs: Key performance indicators are targets that are agreed between the provider and commissioner of each service and which performance can be measured against.

Mainstream health services: Ordinary NHS services used by the majority of people, such as services provided by family doctors, dentists and hospital outpatient services.

Maternity: Relating to pregnancy, childbirth and immediately following childbirth.

Multidisciplinary group or team: Groups of professionals from primary, community, social care and mental health services who work together to plan a patient’ care.

Musculoskeletal conditions: Problems relating to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints.

NHS England: This is the organisation that works with NHS staff, patients, stakeholders and the public to improve the health outcomes for people in England and transparency in the NHS.

NHS e-referral service: Developed based on feedback from patients and NHS professionals, this new service will replace choose and Book and make the NHS much easier to deal with.

Non-elective care: Treatment for illnesses that is not planned and requiring admission to hospital.

One-stop shops: A service where a patient will be able to access the healthcare they need at the same time, in the same location, such as tests and treatment.

Outcomes: The difference in someone’s health before and after treatment.

Outpatient: A patient who attends an appointment to receive treatment without needing to be actually admitted to hospital. Outpatient care can be provided by hospitals, GPs and community providers, and is often used to follow up after treatment or to assess for further treatment.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC), Health OSC and Joint Health OSC: The committee of the relevant local authority, or group of local authorities, made up of local councilors who are responsible for monitoring and, if necessary, challenging programmes.

Package of care: A combination of services put together to meet a person’s assessed healthcare needs. It outlines the care, services and equipment a person needs to live their life in a dignified way.

Paediatric services: Healthcare services for babies, children and adolescents.

Palliative: An area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients with life-threatening illness.

Patient pathway or journey: The care a patient receives from start to finish of a set timescale, in different stages. Integrated care pathways include multidisciplinary services for patient care.

Personal healthcare budget: A personal health budget is an amount of money to support your identified healthcare and wellbeing needs, planned and agreed between you, or your representative, and your local NHS team. www.personalhealthbudgets.england.nhs.uk

Primary care: Services which are the main or first point of contact for the patient, provided by GPs, community providers, and so on.

Secondary care: Services provided by specialists and other professionals who do not generally have first contact with patients.

Specialist hospital: A hospital that provides specialist care for particular conditions such as cancer or lung disease.

Telehealth: Services that use technology to help people to live more independently at home, such as equipment to measure blood pressure, blood glucose levels or weight. This can reduce the number of visits you make to your GP and unplanned visits to the hospital.

Urgent care centre: A centre that is open 24/7 and which treats most illnesses and injuries people have but that do not require treatment in hospital.

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