Two-thirds of MPs polled do not understand the concept of holistic care, according to new research, which calls for the NHS to reduce its use of jargon.
Just 12% of the MPs surveyed believe that the language used to describe the current changes in the structure of the NHS is simple and easy to understand, with only just over half (55%) feeling sufficiently well informed to scrutinise healthcare issues in Parliament.
MHP Communications commissioned YouGov to poll MPs on their level of understanding of healthcare terminology and found that just a quarter (26%) said they understood the term “Accountable Care Organisations” despite it being used more than 80 times in Parliament since January 2016.
A similar proportion (27%) understood what “System Transformation” meant, with just 13% knowing the meaning of “system approaches”, and 35% having a grip on the concept of holistic care.
The results also reveal differences between the two main parties, with Labour MPs consistently saying they had a better understanding of healthcare terminology than Conservative MPs.
Labour MPs are nearly three times more likely to say they understand the concept of holistic care compared to their Tory colleagues and are also much more familiar with integrated care.
The research follows a report released from the cross-party Health and Social Care Select Committee in June, which called on the Government and the NHS to improve how they communicate NHS reform to the public.
Former health minister Paul Burstow, who is a current MHP adviser and chairman of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Language can both illuminate and obscure.
“These poll findings point to a worrying communications gap with MPs feeling bamboozled by NHS speak.
“The NHS at all levels must adopt a plain English approach, so that MPs, and the public they represent, better understand the challenges and the choice.”
Kate Pogson, head of MHP’s health practice, said: “The brief of an MP is vast, and too often policy proposals are hidden behind overly-complex jargonistic phrasing.
“Our research demonstrates how this is impacting on policymaking, with barely half feeling able to scrutinise healthcare issues effectively in Parliament.
“The best communications ultimately lead to improved outcomes for patients. This is a shared endeavour: all of us working in the sector have a responsibility to explain concepts clearly.”
Janetta Murrie, of the Plain English Campaign, said: “It’s time for those writing about healthcare to realise that others don’t understand the very specialised language used.
“Many parts of the NHS are adopting a plain English approach and this needs to extend further.
“If our MPs don’t easily understand the healthcare terms used then it’s no surprise that the public don’t either.”