I Am A Medical Professional ?


Could people please, please, please stop speaking and writing in acronyms.  It’s addling my brain and making it more and more difficult for people working in the health service, not to mention the people trying to get services, to know what is happening.

The problem used to be to try and prise information out of the HSE about what was actually happening in the health services.  Now this is being compounded because even if we do manage to elicit some prize information, we need a dictionary to decipher the strange acronyms which have taken over the day-to-day use of our health and social care services.

With the help of Google you can get great translations if you are trying to work out the meaning of written words, but it’s not so easy when you are in a face-to-face speaking situation.  Then you risk losing half the conversation while you are popping in and out of your ‘phone or laptop for elucidation. And I just don’t think it is polite to keep interrupting the speaker with requests to wait, while you consult Thesaurus once again.

Now I know that acronyms go back to the days of ancient Rome and Greece and indeed we still use Roman abbreviations.  Thanks to Google, I believe the official name for the Roman Empire, and the Republic before it, was abbreviated as SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus.  However, not so many people were literate in those days and those who were did not have to cope with such a range of acronyms and it’s definitely easier to keep them in your head when their use is limited and they are well known. Although now I can’t stop thinking of fishmongers, carpenters hairdressers and others wandering around ancient Rome or Carthage wondering about the meaning of SPQR of if newly arrived émigrés to these cities had to do a test in  acronyms before they could get a job.

My big problem is that I associate acronyms not only with obfuscation, but also with bureaucracy and elitism. Now, we all agree that the HSE is a very large organisation by Irish standards, but I wonder if it really needs so many constituent parts, divisions, sub divisions, departments, sub departments, segments, sub segments, sections, sub sections that we get lost in a mass of acronyms.

I began thinking of this while ploughing through the HSE National Services Plan (NSP) for 2017. To be fair to the 2017 HSE National Service Plan, it does translate the acronyms which litter its pages, but in doing so it does draw attention to their number and variety.   In fact, it could be used as a primer for those who have to deal, unaided, with health care acronyms.

For example, I can tell you that CHOs mean Community Health Organisations.  And while we are on the subject of CHOs, is there one logical reason why they are called CHO 1, Cho 2, CHO 3 etc leaving people with absolutely no clue about the area they cover and driving them demented if they need to apply for a service to a particular CHO.

Doctors probably know that the NAS translates as the National Ambulance Service and that PCRS is the Primary Care Reimbursement Service, but people seeking services probably do not.  Then the HBS is the Health Business Service (bet you didn’t know that one) and the LRA is the Landsdowne Road Agreement (eight marks for those who knew that).

The public probably has no idea what ABF or indeed Activity Based Funding means and will, I imagine be puzzled by CIT (Community Intervention Team), CAMHS, which translates as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and PfG) the Programme for Government, (another 8 marker).

Did you know that SIT is the, Service Improvement Team and SAT is the, Single Assessment Tool.  They were new ones to me and I was glad of the help with HCPs, Home Care Packages and ePCR, Electronic Patient Care Record.

I was completely in the dark with AS1 and AS2 (emergency ambulance) calls, AS3 calls (inter-hospital transfers), ICV intermediate care vehicle transfer calls, the NEOC National Emergency Operations Centre, and CBAS – 1 Caring Behaviours System for Ireland (again full marks to anyone who got that)

I then began to wonder if I should call the NEOC, to enquire about CBAS-1, the SIT and the SAT or if this would be outside the LRA or the PfG and if I would need an ePCR for an ICV.Truly, those of us who work in the health service speak a language that the stranger does not know.