Don’t ignore the ‘boring stuff’

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Communication planning, Talking care

I was recently trying to explain to someone what I did and where I felt I could offer most value in communications. I explained that I actually like the challenge of making the ‘boring stuff’ – by which I mean things like reports, strategies and policies – not just interesting but more likely to have a real impact.  I enjoy both writing and editing this sort of potentially dry, information-heavy material. But frustratingly I’m often brought in simply to proofread final versions, to check that they’re accurate, error-free and set out correctly, and that they make sense.

The frustration comes from knowing that at this stage there is little opportunity to ask questions that could make the content much more meaningful and effective. Who is it for? What response do you hope to achieve? Is this new or existing information? Do you know how similar materials were received by the target audience previously?

Leading by example

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Language, Talking care

Great to hear that NHS leaders are being encouraged to think about how they describe what their organisations offer and the people this is for. In her blog The language of leadership: Small words that make a difference, Jules Acton, director of engagement and membership at National Voices, gives an insight into discussions about terminology that occurred during the design of new NHS Leadership Academy professional development programmes.

As she points out, there is no perfect word to fit all occasions – just referring to people, care or services can be overly generic at times. But challenging the use of some common terms – like ‘hard to reach’ or even ‘patient’ – has to be a good thing, especially when this comes from the very top, or from those who have a particularly strong influence within an organisation.

Mind your language

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Language, Talking care

As the wife of a man diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 51 pointed out at a recent seminar, “care is care is care…” She looked after her husband for many years, battling to provide him with the best quality of life possible. What made her task particularly difficult was the lack of communication between the many professionals and organisations involved at different stages as his dementia progressed. Constantly having to retell his story and make both their wishes known was tiring; what was worse was when his individual needs – even when made clear – were ignored and he was ‘forced’ into services that were not only inappropriate but did more harm than good.

Her point is that it’s only people working in health and social care – and its many sub-sectors – who really differentiate between them. For the person on the receiving end, it’s their experience of care that matters, not how it’s labelled.

Clinicians hate jargon too

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Professional guidance, Talking care

I came across an interesting archive news item from the Telegraph the other day. Dating back to the British Medical Association’s consultants conference a few years ago, it claimed that doctors were often as confused by gobbledygook, over-complicated writing and jargon as patients and pretty much everyone else.

One GP said he had a received a five-page document asking him to record the ethnicity of his patients – a simple request that he pointed out could have been made in just a few short sentences.

Patient information is part of patient care

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Patient information, Talking care

The title of this year’s Patient Information Forum (PIF) conference – Information and support: a service in its own right – sums up something I’ve strongly believed for many years.

What a patient knows and understands about their condition and the choices available to them forms a crucial part of their care. Making sure they have accurate, relevant and clear information should be a top priority for any service provider. The right information is essential to achieving those holy grails of ‘engagement’ and ‘person-centred care’.