THE BLOG

What's in a Name? Meaningless Titles in the NHS

03/06/2014 12:03 BST | Updated 03/08/2014 10:59 BST

What is it with us doctors and this slavish desire to emulate the commercial sector through defining ourselves by euphemistic expanded titles and strap lines? Take this by no means unique attempt to sex up a quite important policy shift in NHS primary care:

"The Challenge Fund''

This is a Department of Health initiative to boost access to GP practices. There is a total dissonance between this bland, meaningless, title; one which would be better applied to a sporting or charity event, and its far more substantive aim ie a significant shift in in primary care resources.

And how did primary care respond to this meaningless invitation? Well, take your pick from the following efforts sent in by potential ' provider stakeholders':

"Better Access, Better Care, Better Lives" (Barking & Dagenham and Havering & Redbridge),

"Moving Primary Care to a Wellbeing Approach" (West Wakefield),

"Together as One Community" (Hambleton, Richmondshire, Whitby),

And my favourites,

"Transformational Innovations for Primary Care in West Hertfordshire" (Watford),

"Transforming the Access Experience at Scale across England" (The Care UK Super practice).

Believe me when I say that GPs have not got the literary gift to come up with these gems. Somewhere along the line some outside, expensive consultancy has been brought in to professionalise a bid for extra resources. Their contribution? The title for the bid document!

This nonsense is only a continuation of years of rebranding within the NHS, from the top down and which includes the latest reincarnation of the admittedly now snappy, "NHS England".

Hospital titles have cascaded through the basic and adequately descriptive "hospital" to "general hospital" to "district general hospital" to "NHS hospital" to "NHS hospital trust" to our now, and by no means unique, local effort: 'TheCxxx Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust '(I think I've got that in the right order). Why bother? Who are we doing this for? Certainly not the public who, at best, are bemused by these ever lengthening sign boards outside our hospitals and at worst, irritated with paying for our ever changing stationary bills.

We GPs need to get away from the sentiment that we can only gain credibility in the public sector by emulating pointless competitive practices in the private. We need to get away from business seminars run by teenagers in sharp suits who think that they need to buy, and bill YOU for, a new Rolex, every time you ask for the time. The NHS spent, conservatively, £40 million in six months in 2013 on management consultants. That sum can buy you an awful lot of nonsense.

Do we really think that this Scrabble board jumble of words imbues us with some kind of validity and gravitas? I don't think the public see it that way. In truth I don't think they care what we are called as long as we provide an effective healthcare service. I do however worry that our verbal diarrhoea might give them the impression that we either have so much redundant time that we can waste it on irrelevant fripperies or that we genuinely believe in that old cliché about the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Instead of stringing together words and ending up sounding like some inbred minor gentry in Debrett's, maybe we should just focus on being "doctors" and leave the silly names to those with more experience in that field; such as pop groups favoured by politicians?