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Jargon buster

An A-Z explanation of commonly used NHS and health terms.

A&E. Accident and Emergency department. The accident and emergency departments of hospitals that deal with people who need emergency treatment because of sudden illness or injury.

Acute services. Medical and surgical interventions usually provided in hospital.

Agenda for Change (AfC). The NHS system of pay that is linked to the job content, and the skills and knowledge staff apply to perform jobs.

Ambulance Trust. Ambulance trusts provide emergency access to health care. Ambulance trusts respond to 999 calls; doctors' urgent admission requests; high-dependency and urgent inter-hospital transfers and major incidents.

Assessment of Need. Used to identify an individual's social care and support needs and their eligibility for care and support through use of Fair Access to Care Services eligibility criteria.  Most assessments are carried out by an assessing practitioner and involve the individual needing support.  The Government's Personalisation Agenda is encouraging greater self-assessment

Caldicott Guardians. Senior staff in the NHS and social services appointed to protect patient information.

Care home. A home registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and providing nursing and / or personal support as well as living accommodation

Care manager. Care management is a relatively new system of fieldwork used by social services departments. Care managers are commissioners of services; performing assessments and devising packages of care for clients.  Care Managers tend to be social workers but can include other professionals such as Occupational Therapists.

Care package. Following an assessment, a care package is agreed to enable a patient to receive care appropriate to their needs. Where necessary this covers both NHS and social care.

Care pathway. The process of diagnosis, treatment and care negotiated with the involvement of the patient and his/her carer or family.

Care plans. Individual health and social care professions or teams may produce a document to show what care will be given and how to a patient/service user. Care plans are written agreements setting out how care will be provided within the resources available for people with complex needs.

Care trusts. NHS trusts that work in both health and social care. They can be established where NHS organisations and local authorities agree to work together and their functions are determined by this partnership. The role for the care trust is usually where it is felt that a closer integration between health and social care is needed or would be beneficial at a local level.

Carer. A person who provides support to an individual but is not employed to do so by an agency or other organisation.  Can be of any age and are often a relative or friend supporting someone at home.

Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). From April 2013, Clinical Commissioning Groups took over the responsibility from Primary Trust Care Trusts for commissioning certain health services. Unlike PCTs, CCGs do not commission GP services, dental services or public health services. 

CCGs are led by clinicians, rather than by NHS Managers. All GP practices in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are members of the CCG. This means that decision making will be closer to the patient.

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust (CCS). Provides community based health and social care services.

Choose and Book. The system that allows patients to make their first outpatient appointment, at a time, date and place that suits them.

Clinical governance. The system through which NHS organisations are accountable for continuously improving the quality of their services and safeguarding high standards of care.

Clinical network. A network of health professionals from different NHS organisations working together across institutional and local boundaries, to provide care for a particular disease or patient group.

Commissioning. Commissioning is the buying of health and care services. It is a continuous cycle of activities that includes agreeing and specifying services to be delivered over the long term through partnership working, as well as contract negotiation, target setting, providing incentives and monitoring. It is all about making sure that health and care services effectively meet the needs of a given population with the resources available.

Community care. A network of services provided by local authority social service departments, the NHS and volunteers. Designed to keep people independent and able to live in the community rather than in institutional care; for example, older people, people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health problems. Services are often provided in the home.

Community health services. NHS services provided outside a hospital. Community health staff include district nurses, health visitors, community midwives, district dieticians, chiropodists and community psychiatric nurses. Many community staff are attached to GP practices and health centres.

Community hospitals. Local hospitals serving populations of less than 100,000 that provide a range of clinical services.

Community Support. Flexible services that assist individuals with the activities of daily living and enable them to access social and recreational activities in their local community

Continuing care. Continuing care means care provided by health and social care professionals over an extended period of time, to meet adults’ physical or mental health needs caused by disability, accident or illness. NHS continuing healthcare is a package of continuing care provided outside hospital, arranged and funded solely by the NHS, for people with ongoing healthcare needs. If you need continuing care, your care needs are likely to be complex, substantial and ongoing, caused by a disability or chronic illness, or following hospital treatment. There are eligibility criteria for applying for NHS funded continuing care.

Care programme approach (CPA). The system used by CCGs and their corresponding social services departments for assessing the health and social care needs of mentally ill people to make sure they get referred to appropriate secondary care.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT). This is the local mental health trust for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and provides treatment and care for patients with mental health issues.

Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC is the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England. The CQC’s role is to make sure that care provided by hospitals, dentists, ambulances, care homes and services in people’s own homes and elsewhere meets national standards of quality and safety. 

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUHFT). Cambridge University Hospitals is one of the largest and best known trusts in the country and delivers a number of specialist services. Encompasses Addenbrooke’s hospital and the Rosie maternity unit.

Delayed discharge. Where a patient who is fit for discharge remains in an acute hospital bed because other, more suitable, care cannot be provided.

Department of Health (DHSC). The Department of Health and Social Care provides strategic leadership for public health, the NHS and social care in England. It is a government department, led by the Secretary of State for Health (a cabinet MP).

Early Intervention. Aims to identify people at risk and to halt or slow down any deterioration, and actively seek to improve their situation (Also known secondary prevention).

East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST). Provides ambulance services for the east of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk).

Elective care. Elective care is given at a planned or prearranged time rather than in response to an emergency, usually following referral from a primary or community health professional such as a GP.  

Eligibility criteria. An assessment of an individual's support needs, that takes into consideration how serious a risk is to the individual's independence.  By determining level of risk, the criteria provide a structure for determining an individual's eligibility for social care.

Exceptional cases. Exceptional cases are treatments not usually funded by the NHS, but applications can be made to fund them. The Exceptional Cases Panel is authorised by the Board to process requests for exceptional treatments.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Government act which gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public bodies.

Generic medicines. Generic medicines are usually copies of pharmaceutical products that are no longer protected by patent.

General practitioner (GP). GPs are doctors who work from a local surgery or health centre, providing medical advice and treatment to patients who have registered on their list. The majority of GPs are independent contractors providing services to patients through a contract with the local CCG. GPs refer patients who need more help to specialists, such as hospital consultants.

General Practitioners with Special Interests (GPwSI). GPs that supplement their generalist role by delivering a clinical service beyond the normal scope of general practice.

Healthcare acquired infection or healthcare associated infection (HCAI). Infections such as MRSA and Clostridium Difficile that patients or healthcare workers acquire from a hospital.

Health economy. A health economy includes all health organisations and staff within an identified area. It includes CCGs, primary care practitioners, NHS trusts, local authorities/councils and voluntary sector organisations. May also be referred to as a health community.

Health inequalities. Programme that focuses on narrowing the health gap between disadvantaged groups, communities and the rest of the country.

Health trainers. NHS accredited staff who help local people to make health and lifestyle changes.

Health visitor. A health professional working in the community, often responsible for prevention, health advice and promotion and community health development.

Healthwatch. Healthwatch England is the consumer champion for health and adult social care. Local Healthwatch organisations work with Healthwatch England.

Healthy living. Initiatives to help people stay healthy, including programmes to encourage people to quit smoking, eat better and exercise more.

Health Education England (HEE). Health Education England provides national leadership for workforce planning, education and training, and supports local organisations in delivering education and training. HEE is responsible for providing funding and monitoring outcomes from training and education providers. 

Hinchingbrooke Hospital. Hinchingbrooke hospital is the local district general hospital in Huntingdonshire. It is managed by North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust.

Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB). These exist to improve health and care services, and the health and wellbeing of local people. They bring together the key commissioners in an area, including the CCG, directors of public health, children’s services, and adult social services; with at least one elected Councillor and a representative of Healthwatch. The boards assess local needs and develop a shared strategy to address them, providing a strategic framework for individual commissioners’ plans.

Impact Assessment. Impact Assessments must be completed on all DHSC policy regulatory proposals and new legislation.  They provide a process to help policymakers consider and understand the consequences of proposed DH interventions in the public, private and third sectors, against a range of alternative options. They are also a tool to enable policymakers to weigh up relevant evidence of costs versus the benefits of options for intervention on different sectors. The assessment requires completion of a summary and a series of Specific Impact Tests. These include statutory requirements such as Equality Impact Assessments and others such as Health Impact Assessments.

Indicative budget. The amount of funding that can be made available to meet an individual's social care and support needs. The amount is identified through use of a Resource Allocation System (RAS).  This is different from a Personal Budget which is the final agreed amount of funding based on the preparation for their Support Plan.

Infection control. The practices used to prevent the spread of diseases.

Intermediate care. Services such as nursing homes, rehabilitation and home care services which are designed to bridge the gap between hospital and home. They ease the transition from medical dependence and help people recover and resume independent living more quickly.

Independent sector (IS). An umbrella term for organisations or businesses controlled or owned by private individuals, either directly or through stock ownership, rather than organisations run by Government or Government bodies.

Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA). JSNAs are local assessments of current and future health and social care needs that could be met by the local authority, CCG, or NHS Commissioning Board. They are produced by Health and Wellbeing Boards, and are unique to each local area. 

Local Authority (LA). Bodies empowered and required by various Acts of Parliament to carry out the local government of their areas. The council is the final decision-making body within a local authority. They deliver local services to the community through leadership which is democratically accountable to local communities.

Local Area Agreement (LAA). A three year agreement that sets out the priorities for a local area in certain policy fields as agreed between government, local authority and other partners.

Local Education and Training Board (LETB). Local education and training boards are committees of Health Education England (HEE). The LETBs will be the vehicle for providers and professionals to work with HEE to improve the quality of education and training outcomes so that they meet the needs of service providers, patients and the public.

Local Strategic Partnership (LSP). Partnerships that bring together representatives from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors to deliver the Sustainable Community strategy and local area agreements. They are non-statutory partnerships usually based on local authority boundaries.

Long Term Condition (LTC). There are around 15 million people in England with at least one long term condition – a condition that can not be cured but can be managed through medication and/or therapy. There is no definitive list of LTCs, but examples include diabetes, asthma and coronary heart disease.

Multi-disciplinary team (MDT).  A group of professionals who have different qualifications, job roles and expertise. They may work for a variety of health and social care organisations who come together to assess need and plan care for a patient/service user together as one joined up team. 

Mental Health Trusts. A mental health trust provides treatment and care for patients who have mental health issues. The services may be provided from a hospital or in the community.

Minor Injuries Unit (MIU). Nurse-led urgent care for non-life threatening injuries such as cuts, sprains and burns that cannot be treated at home.

Needs assessment. A systematic process by which NHS organisations or local authorities use information to judge the health and wellbeing of their population and then decide what services should be provided to meet local needs. The aim is to identify unmet needs and make recommendations about ways to address these needs.

NHS 111. The three-digit telephone service and online platform that links patients to urgent care and out of hours services in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area. Patients registered to a CAPCCG GP practice can use this number when they need medical help or advice urgently or out of normal working hours, but it's not urgent enough to call 999. NHS 111 operates 24/7, 365 days per year and is free to use from a landline and a mobile. You can also access NHS 111 via 111.nhs.uk.

NHS allocations. How the Department of Health allocates money to local health services.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I). The regulator of foundation trusts, NHS trusts and independent providers that provide NHS-funded care. Their priority is to offer support to providers and local health systems to help them improve.

NHS Trusts. NHS acute Trusts are hospitals, community health services, mental health services and ambulance services which are managed by their own boards of directors. NHS trusts are part of the NHS, and provide services on the requirements of patients as represented by primary care trusts (which are also a type of NHS trust).

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). An independent organisation providing advice and guidelines on the cost and effectiveness of drugs and treatments.

Non medical prescribing. A programme that gives patients quicker access to medicines, and makes better use of nurses and other health professionals' skills.

National service framework (NSF). Long term strategies for improving specific areas of care.

National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA). Provides services to drug misusers through pooled budgets from health and other agencies. It encourages good practice, sets standards and monitors performance.

Nurse prescribing. Qualified nurse independent prescribers are now able to prescribe any licensed medicine for any medical condition within their competence.

Out of hours (OOH) services. Patient services provided by GPs outside of normal surgery hours.

Operating framework. The business and financial arrangements for running an organisation. DH publishes an Operating Framework for the NHS annually.

Palliative care. Care for people with chronic or life threatening conditions from which they will not recover. Its focus is on symptom control and family support to help people have the best quality of life they can, given their medical condition.

Patient choice. A DH policy concerning giving patients more choice about how, when and where they receive treatment.

Royal Papworth Hospital. The UK’s largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital and the country’s main heart and lung transplant centre.

Patient pathway. The route followed by the patient into, through and out of NHS and social care services.

Payment by Results (PbR). A transparent, rules-based system that sets fixed prices (a tariff) for clinical procedures and activity in the NHS, enabling all trusts to be paid the same for equivalent work.

Public Health England (PHE). Leads in matters of health protection and sets the overall outcomes framework for public health. An executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care.

Patient Participation Group (PPG). A group of patients who are interested in health and healthcare issues and want to get involved with / support the running of their local GP practice. 

Primary care. The initial contact for many people when they develop a health problem. The term primary care covers GP services, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists and ophthalmic medical practitioners. NHS 111 and NHS walk-in centres are also primary care services.

Procurement. The acquisition of goods and/or services at the best cost, in the right quantity and quality for the direct benefit of an organisation or service, usually via a contract. In DH it refers to purchasing processes made by DH, usually to further improve health and social care services.

Provider. Providers are organisations that provide services directly to patients, including hospitals, mental health services and ambulance services. 

Peterborough City Hospital. Acute teaching hospital serving the city of Peterborough, north Cambridgeshire, areas of east Northamptonshire and Rutland. Run by North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust.

Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). Part of the contract CCGs have with GPs. It is nationally negotiated and rewards best practice and improved quality of services.

Re-ablement. Helping people to do things for themselves rather than having things done for them. Re-ablement services provide personal care, help with daily living activities and other practical tasks for a time-limited period. The model works towards enabling people to live as independently as possible. It enables service users to develop their confidence and practical skills.

Real terms. Cash figures adjusted for the effect of general inflation as measured by the Gross Domestic Product deflator.

Records management. Identifying, classifying, archiving, and preserving records. DH has an obligation to create and maintain records under the Public Records Acts of 1958 and 1967. We also have obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2005. The Act gives citizens and organisations a statutory right of access to official records and information of any age, and will cover all types of information held by the DH. In the NHS it refers to the management of records of people who work within or under contract to NHS organisations in England.

Revenue. Revenue is expenditure other than capital, for example, staff salaries and drug budgets. Also known as current expenditure.

Safeguarding children report. A review carried out once every three years by all relevant chief inspectors to assess how well children are being cared for.

Secondary care. Usually hospital-based care. Secondary care is known as acute healthcare and can be either elective (planned) care or emergency care. Elective care means planned specialist medical care or surgery, usually following referral from a primary or community health professional such as a GP.  

Self care. When patients with long-term conditions are given support, including devices and technologies to care for themselves at home.

Service users. Anyone who uses, requests, applies for or benefits from health or local authority services. They may also be referred to as users, clients, patients or consumers, depending on the services they are using.

Social care. The range of services that support the most vulnerable people in society in their daily lives. This can include being cared for in a care home or being provided with care in one's own home by a domiciliary care worker. The care provided can include dressing, washing, and help with bathing, toileting and feeding.

Social enterprises. Businesses with primarily social objectives that reinvest their profits into the community.

Social exclusion. The process that can take place when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown.

Safeguarding of vulnerable adults (SOVA). Initiative to specifically address the abuse of vulnerable adults. Also sometimes called protection of vulnerable adults (POVA).

Specialised commissioning. Commissioning health services for rare diseases in adults and children.

Statutory. Required or permitted by law.

Step down care. Care facilities that are outside acute hospitals, which enable people who strongly value their independence to leave acute hospital and to return home.

Substance misuse. The misuse of illegal drugs and legal pharmaceuticals.

SystmOne  (S1). An IT package designed to securely store patient data.  It is used in GP practices and also by many providers.

Tertiary care. A more specialised health service, often provided by specialised hospitals or departments often linked to medical schools or teaching hospitals. They treat patients with complex conditions who have usually been referred by other hospitals or specialist doctors.

Third sector. Non-governmental organisations which are run on a not-for-profit basis and not as part of the public sector. They are motivated primarily by a desire to further social, environmental or cultural objectives rather than to make a profit for its own sake. Any surpluses are reinvested to further these objectives. This includes the voluntary and community sector, co-operatives, social enterprises, trade unions, and not-for-profit trade associations.

Treatment centres. Centres that offer safe, fast, pre-booked day and short stay surgery and diagnostic procedures in areas of treatment that have traditionally had the longest waiting times.

Voluntary and community sector (VCS). Groups set up for public or community benefit such as registered charities, and non-charitable non-profit organisations and associations.

Vulnerable adults. People with disabilities or mental conditions who are unable to take care of themselves, or protect themselves against harm or exploitation from others.

Vulnerable groups. People who are vulnerable because of their situation, for example, homeless people.

Walk in centre. Centres staffed by nurses that offer patients fast and convenient access to treatment and information without an appointment.